Sunday, October 21, 2007

Global Warming Solutions

Political Solution

Fund and expand mass transitCreate a critical mass.

In communities all over the United States, mass transit systems are being installed in a concerted effort to motivate people to not drive as much. Over the next 12 years, Denver–a metropolitan area built around the automobile–is creating a 119-mile system of commuter rail and 18 miles of bus rapid transit. And in the Midwest, Minneapolis-St. Paul unveiled its light-rail line two years ago and ridership has exceeded all expectations.

Why the sudden interest in new mass transit systems? A reduction in driving saves gas–and in this era of concern about our level of imported oil, mass transit can make a big difference.

When a gallon of gas is used for fuel, the combustion process releases 19.6 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. So every gallon of gas we don’t use keeps about 20 pounds of CO2 from being added to our global warming problems.

In cities with older transportation infrastructure such as Chicago, ELPC and others are advocating for significant capital investment dedicated to refurbishing mass transit systems that have suffered from years of chronic underfunding.

The results of that underfunding are clear:

Deferred maintenance that has slowed train service on many portions of Chicago’s rapid-transit lines to a crawl Decrepit stations built almost a century ago that turn off potential new riders Dirty, odor-filled equipment that makes the rider experience unpleasant There’s no question that in cities like Chicago, people want to ride mass transit. Rail ridership–despite “slow zones” growing seemingly exponentially–grew 5% in 2006. Imagine what the growth would be–and what the global warming pollution reduction would be–if the trains were fast, the stations clean, and equipment attractive.

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