In 2008, Indiana citizens saved 11.7 million gallons of gasoline by riding transit in record numbers -- the amount consumed by 20,200 cars. Transportation is responsible for more than two-thirds of our dependence on oil, and about one-third of our carbon dioxide pollution Environment America outlined in a new report "Getting On Track: Record Transit Ridership Increases Energy Independence."
People are voting with their feet by driving less and taking more public transportation. Congress should listen to these voters and invest more in public transportation, which will increase our energy independence and reduce global warming pollution.
In Indiana, transit ridership increased by more than 9 percent above 2007 levels.
Hoosiers drove less, with 2.4 million fewer miles driven in 2008, than in the year before -- a 4 percent decrease. They drove less due in part to volatile fuel prices and decreased economic activity. Many of these car trips were replaced by transit.
"In addition to fuel savings, public transportation reduced global warming pollution in Indiana by 105,000 tons in 2008."
"More and more Indiana citizens want increased options for transportation," said State Representative Terri Austin, D-Anderson, chair of the House Roads and Transportation Committee. "Not only does public transportation save working Hoosiers time and money, it helps to improve our environment. We have to find a way to increase public transportation options while ensuring that those industries which rely on moving people and goods over our public roads have safe, well-maintained thoroughfares."
In 2008, increased national transit ridership saved more than 4 billion gallons of gasoline, the equivalent to the fuel nearly 7.2 million cars -- almost as many passenger cars as are registered in Florida -- consume in one year.
These figures do not take into account the other benefits of increased transit ridership, such as reduced congestion, fewer hours stuck in traffic, reductions in smog and soot pollution or money saved by households regularly taking transit.
Every additional dollar we spend on public transit makes us less dependent on oil and reduces global warming pollution, smog, and asthma attacks.
In addition to fuel savings, public transportation reduced global warming pollution in Indiana by 105,000 tons in 2008.
To maximize the potential energy savings and pollution reduction offered by public transportation, Environment America is asking our local, state, and federal leaders to:
"Not only does public transportation save working Hoosiers time and money, it helps to improve our environment."- State Rep. Terri Austin, D-Anderson
Issue overarching goals for reducing oil dependence and pollution through transportation, which will guide better policy; Increase investment in cleaner public transportation, to include transit, high speed rail, and better walking and biking options; Level the playing field in terms of funding and approving transit projects, relative to road projects, with approval of transit and highway investments governed by an equivalent set of rules and matching ratios; and Increase funding for transit maintenance and day-to-day operations, in addition to improving and expanding capacity. Federal, state and local funds should allow for greater flexibility in funding operations -- new buses and trains are useless without drivers to drive them and mechanics to maintain them.
In the near term, Environment America calls on Congress to incorporate the full provisions of CLEAN TEA (the Clean, Low Emissions, Affordable New Transportation Equity Act, S. 575 ), into the climate bill being debated now in the U.S. Senate. CLEAN TEA would direct 10 percent of climate bill allowances to clean transportation efforts that will save oil and reduce emissions.
We hope Senators Lugar and Bayh will support this forward-thinking legislation to save oil and reduce pollution.
Megan Severson is the Midwest Field Organizer with Environment America. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.