Record-breaking transit ridership saved fuel equal to the amount consumed by 67,000 cars in Minnesota last year

For Immediate Release

Minneapolis, MN -  In 2008, people in Minnesota saved 39 million gallons of gasoline by riding transit in record numbers – the amount consumed by about 67,000 cars in Minnesota.  Transportation is responsible for more than two-thirds of our dependence on oil, and about one-third of our carbon dioxide pollution. Standing with other transit advocates in front of the Light Rail station at City Hall in downtown Minneapolis on Wednesday, Environment Minnesota outlined the findings in their 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,” said Samantha Chadwick of Environment Minnesota.  “We want Congress to listen to these voters and invest more in public transportation, which will increase our energy independence and reduce global warming pollution,” Chadwick added.

In Minnesota, transit ridership increased by more than 5 percent above 2007 levels.

People in Minnesota drove less, with a 2% decrease in miles driven in 2008 than in the year before. People drove less due in part to volatile fuel prices and decreased economic activity, and many of these car trips were replaced by transit.

“Our state is changing; our population is growing older and more people are choosing neighborhoods that allow them to take transit, walk, or bike to get around,” says Dave Van Hattum of Transit for Livable Communities. “These trends have radically changed what residents demand from our transportation system, and our spending priorities must reflect that new reality.”

“Despite the huge potential for transit to reduce oil consumption and pollution, the vast majority of transportation funding is spent on roads,” said Chadwick.  “Instead of doling out money to build new highways that increase pollution and our dependence on oil, our leaders here in Minnesota and in Congress should drive more money to transit, rail, and better biking and walking options,” Chadwick added.

In 2008 increased national transit ridership saved more than 4 billion gallons of gasoline, the equivalent of the fuel nearly 7.2million 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 – benefits that include 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,” continued Chadwick.

Chadwick and Van Hattum were joined Wednesday by Representative Frank Hornstein, Chair of the House Transportation and Transit Policy and Oversight Division and champion of alternative transportation policy in Minnesota. Horstein says constituents are demonstrating support for increased transportation options, and that we need local, state, and federal policies that reflect that change and offer more funding for transportation options that reduce pollution.

Also present was Michelle Sommers, the President of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005, whose organization is supportive of transit policies that hold the promise of new jobs.
 
In addition to fuel savings, public transportation reduced global warming pollution in Minnesota by 352,000 tons in 2008.

In order to maximize public transportation potential to save energy and reduce pollution, Environment Minnesota is asking our local, state, and federal leaders to:

  • 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. Approval of transit and highway investments should be governed by an equivalent set of rules and matching ratios.
  • 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 Minnesota is calling 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 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 Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken will support this forward-thinking legislation to save oil and reduce pollution,” Chadwick added.

The full report is available on line at www.environmentminnesota.org/reports.

More information and a map of future metro area transit lines is also available at the Transit For Livable Communities website: www.tlcminnesota.org/resources.html