Reports can only help public transit's case

Posted on July 17, 2013 by Alex Roman - Also by this author

A new National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) study solidifies what the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) Transit Savings Report has been telling us for years now: riding public transportation can save users money.

The new report, “Driving Commuter Choice in America, Expanding Transportation Choices Can Reduce Congestion, Save Money and Cut Pollution,” found that if commuters integrate carpooling, public transit and telecommuting into their daily commutes, they could save more than $1,800 annually and reduce their total vehicle miles traveled by 10% to 50%.

This falls in line with APTA’s quarterly Transit Savings Report, however, APTA’s predicted cost savings is much higher — $816 a month, $9,795 annually, as of May 31 — because it factors in the cost of fuel and parking amongst other factors.

 “All across the country, a shift is taking place,” said Rob Perks, transportation state campaign director for NRDC in a press release. “Increasingly, Americans are choosing to live in walkable communities, where they have more transportation choices that allow them to live closer to their jobs, and shops and schools, rather than stuck in traffic. Along with the personal freedom these communities provide, it’s exactly the kind of growth our country needs to cut pollution, save money and create a vibrant quality of life.”

The NRDC’s report found that if 25% of Americans adopted one of these alternative driving choices, the U.S. could reduce annual transportation emissions by 3% to 12%, reduce transportation fuel use by billions of gallons per year and save consumers tens of billions of dollars in transportation spending each year. In addition, more choices in transportation would allow commuters to drive less, leading to less congestion in metropolitan areas, less wear and tear on roads, and less spending to maintain the nation’s infrastructure.

Specifically to transit, the report found that increasing transit round-trip work commutes by four round trips each month can reduce driving costs by 14% to 26%.

NRDC’s report also recommends policy solutions to invest in expanded transportation choices, including building more compact, walkable transit-oriented neighborhoods and better transportation solutions.

The findings of these two studies — that public transit is a key alternative for the traveling public — can only help the industry’s case with politicians when it comes time for a new transportation authorization bill. With the strain on federal funds continuing to be an issue, however, these studies can perhaps more importantly help the industry enforce its case when it comes to referendums at the state and local levels, which have found tremendous success over the last several years.

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