Many people talk about public transportation as an issue of access, mobility, safety, and economic development for the people and businesses in Southeast Michigan. These issues are critical to our region, but public transportation has significant environmental advantages as well. Ecology Center has long been committed to improving public transportation in Washtenaw County, and we have recently expanded our efforts throughout SE Michigan by joining A Coalition for Transit (ACT), a broad-based coalition dedicated to improving and expanding public transportation throughout our region.
It is no secret that public transportation can help reduce the number of cars on the streets, but how does that exactly help the environment? For starters, it helps alleviate traffic congestion, and thus helps improve air quality. The fewer cars on the roads, the less toxic emissions being spewed into our environment.
Public transportation provides environmental benefits for land use. It connects communities in ways that can help reduce sprawl, increase urban density, increase walkability, and eliminate the need to continuously build more parking lots. This means that we can preserve the valuable green space that we have all come to love, providing both environmental and public health benefits.
Public transportation can help reduce our reliance on dirty energy sources like fossil fuels, reducing carbon emissions that are causing climate change. The transportation sector accounts for over 30% of carbon emissions in the United States, and light-duty vehicles, which include the cars we drive everyday account for 61% of transportation energy use. That means that those who choose to ride public transportation reduce their carbon footprint and conserve energy. Estimates suggest that if an individual switches from driving a 20-mile round-trip commute to using public transportation, his or her annual CO2 emissions will decrease by 4,800 pounds per year. That’s equal to a 10 percent reduction in a two-car household’s carbon footprint.
On May 31, the Regional Transit Authority (rtamichigan.org) will release its master plan draft. After the release, there will be several public meetings throughout the month of June, giving people the opportunity to learn about the potential for connected regional transit and submit their comments. Ecology Center will keep you updated as these events are scheduled. It is time that we start reshaping the way we talk about public transportation in Southeast Michigan, as an opportunity that will benefit us all, providing mobility to those who need it, supporting local economic development, improving public health and protecting our environment.
For more information on how to support public transportation in Southeast Michigan, you can visit www.acoalitionfortransit.com.
Published on April 27, 2016