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Public Transportation, Gas Prices, and Climate

Posted Jun. 9, 2008 / Posted by: RConnors

We can help American families cope with high gas prices by investing in public transportation and communities with transportation alternatives through climate change legislation.

Gas prices have shot up by more than a dollar per gallon in less than four months.

  • Families are being squeezed by transportation costs that are now their second largest expense after housing (18 percent of household income on average), according to U.S. Census data.
  • A recent Harris poll shows 92 percent of Americans believe that gas prices will only trend upward and they are looking to Congress for help.

One of the most important and effective ways to reduce transportation costs and avoid pain at the pump is to offer Americans alternatives to driving.

  • We can provide Americans with these options by expanding transportation alternatives and investing in communities designed to support shorter travel distances, public transportation, and options to walk and bike.
  • Of those who live near public transportation, 33 percent regularly use public transportation and 44 percent also regularly travel by walking or bicycle, according to the Center for Transit Oriented Development.
  • A typical transit rider consumes less than half as much gasoline on average than a person with no access to transit, according to an analysis done by consulting firm ICF International.
  • This report shows that public transportation currently saves over 1.4 billion gallons of fuel each year.
  • At today’s average AAA price of $3.989 per gallon that means American families are savings $5.6 billion each year on gasoline costs by using transit.
  • The same report shows that public transportation has a "leverage effect" on surrounding areas, encouraging development of walkable communities that require less driving. This saves another 4.2 billion gallons of fuel from being used, saving additional $16.6 billion in gas costs.

The demand for these kinds of communities and transportation alternatives is surging.

  • A recent poll by the National Association of Realtors suggests that more than one third of the demand for new housing is in walkable, transit-oriented communities.
  • Public transportation ridership rose by 3.3 percent in the past year, according to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).
  • More than 90 percent of public-transportation officials report that their ridership is up over the past three years according to APTA.
  • Many cities including St. Louis, Tampa, and San Diego report double-digit increases.

Too few Americans live in communities equipped with convenient and reliable access to public transportation or other alternatives to driving a vehicle.

  • Only about 5 percent of commuters take transit to work because most do not have good access to transit, according to the Center for Transit-Oriented Development.
  • Less than 5 percent of Americans live within one-half mile of rail transit.
  • Of those who do live near public transportation, 33 percent regularly use it and 44 percent also regularly travel by walking or bicycle.

We can help American families cope with high gas prices by investing in public transportation and communities with transportation alternatives through climate change legislation.

  • Section 611 of the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act would expand public transportation and other alternative travel options.
  • Amendments offered by Senators Carper and Cardin would have strengthened these provisions further.
  • It would provide incentives and resources for local communities, regions, and states to invest in more efficient development patterns and transportation systems.
  • In addition to helping families deal with high gas prices, these provisions will help lower greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, which represent approximately a third of total U.S. carbon emissions.

Letter to SenatorsPress Release

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