An Argument For Public Transportation

While busses and heavy trucks are generally the least efficient vehicles on the road today, they may very well become the easiest and most cost effective method for reducing carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. The option of mass transit through city busses, trains and subways is one that is already in existence in the majority of our most populated urban areas within the continental United States. Considering the fact that only about 10% of those living in urban areas in the U.S. today actually use public transportation as their only means of getting around, there is a tremendous opportunity to greatly increase that amount by offering subsidies, tax incentives and direct marketing programs to people in order to increase ridership of public transportation. There needs to be a catalyst in order to make it happen, but what might that catalyst be, and does it necessarily have to be one of ominous portent?

The U.S. population is approximately 5% of the total world population, yet we emit 25% of the carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Of that 25%, 27% comes from transportation. And from that 27% of transportation greenhouse gas emissions, just 10% of those emissions come from public transportation. What this means is that if the world emits about 16 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every day, the U.S. is responsible for 4 million metric tons of that. Of that 4 million metric tons, our automobiles are responsible for over 900,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions every day. That’s more than 328,500,000 metric tons per year just in the U.S. alone. If more people take mass transit, we can greatly reduce our consumption, while providing these companies with needed funds in order to upgrade their systems and purchase more vehicles with greater fuel efficiency, such as hybrid and even electric busses. Given the fact that Oregon’s electricity is produced primarily by non-coal technology (hydropower and nuclear, as well as a smattering of solar and wind), we are in a prime position to take advantage of reducing our reliance on carbon based fuels.

In Portland, Oregon, Tri Met has announced a budget shortfall which will cause them to reduce or completely shut down some of the less used bus lines within the metropolitan area. Given the fact that the residents of Portland tout themselves as being one of the most “green minded” individuals in the country, it seems that these budget shortfalls run counter to that mind set. If we Portlanders are so environmentally conscious, why do we continue to clog our streets and freeways with all of those automobiles? If we indeed intend to play our part in the reduction of greenhouse gasses, it’s time to practice what we preach.

Posted by Charles Wilcox