Public transportation is an inherently green way to travel. The more people on a single shared vehicle, the fewer single occupant cars on the road, and the fewer greenhouse gases emitted. According to an IFC International report titled “Public Transportation and Petroleum Savings in the U.S.,” public transportation reduces America’s annual gasoline demand by about 1.4 million gallons—that’s the equivalent to taking 300,000 cars off the road every single day. And the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) has found that public transportation reduces carbon emissions by 37 million metric tons annually. But public transit agencies across the nation are working hard to make their operations even greener.
Public Transportation Agencies’ Environmental Efforts
—Adding new routes to make public transportation more convenient for more drivers. San Antonio’s transit agency is one of many groups taking this step. As city populations grow, there is more congestion on the roads and more harmful emissions at ground level. Attracting new riders to public transit can help minimize pollution levels.
—Alternative fuel vehicles—such as those powered by hybrid diesel, propane, electric, and compressed natural gas—can further decrease gas emissions.
—Solar Powered Bus Stations are well illuminated, powered by sunlight and they may even sport informative screens showing arrival times. In Atlanta, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) has constructed an enormous solar canopy over its bus garage. By greatly minimizing the energy needed to keep the bus garage running, MARTA achieves the equivalent of planting over 285 acres of trees every year.
—Alternative Energy Generation is becoming more common, as transit boards require a certain portion of operation to be fueled with green forms of energy. For example, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in Boston currently operates two wind turbines.
This is only a small portion of potential energy saving efforts. Eco-minded transportation agencies also focus on earth-friendly water management, energy savings accrued from replacing outdated, energy-hogging lights, and much more. To distinguish agencies with a commitment to the environment, the APTA maintains the opt-in Sustainability Commitment program. Participants can earn Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum recognition for achieving certain carbon reduction targets.
Train and bus WiFi can also help “green up” public transit. WiFi can increase ridership by attracting commuters who hope to use their transit time for catching up on email, getting a jump-start on the day’s work, or just kicking back and enjoying online entertainment. Younger Gen Y riders are especially likely to prefer a longer commute on public transportation with WiFi access over a shorter drive to work with no WiFi access. Public transit mobile WiFi can also allow real-time information to be conveyed to riders, practically eliminating the guesswork of figuring out when the next bus or train will arrive. Overall, mobile WiFi hotspots on buses and trains can magnetize new riders out of their cars and onto public transportation, further reducing carbon emissions, congestion, and pollution in our cities.