Dumping the Pump

Riding the train every day to work gives me time to read the morning newspaper – a rare thing nowadays, I know – and watch the Meet the Press podcast or the latest Doctor Who episode. Easy access to public transportation improves my quality of life on a daily basis. I like having that choice.

I also enjoy the fact that between walking and riding I have an oil-free daily commute. Public transportation has helped unshackle my family from the gas pump. To encourage others to take the train or bus, and to educate consumers about the benefits to our energy security, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and a slew of participating transit agencies across the country organized “Dump the Pump” day. I'm proud to say NRDC is a partner in this event, which is especially timely given the grim reminder of the consequences of our oil addiction provided by the petroleum geyser in the Gulf.

While public transportation plays second fiddle to the auto when it comes to mileage traveled in the U.S., it plays a crucial role in our metropolitan areas, the largest 100 of which host two-thirds of our population and most of our GDP. Regions across the country would be gridlocked without it. It saves 300,000 barrels of oil a day, much more than the Deepwater Horizon wreck has been spewing into the Gulf, and it cuts heat-trapping pollution by 37 million metric tons a year.

And it’s making a comeback this century, as we all come to grips anew with the perils of our massive addiction to oil (we consume almost 20 million barrels a day of the black stuff). From 1995-2008, while traffic on our roads grew 21 percent, transit ridership grew almost twice that much (38 percent). And new analysis from the Department of Transportation shows that with adequate investments ridership could rise faster, which when deployed as part of a comprehensive strategy to increase travel efficiency including road pricing, intelligent transportation technology, more compact land development and other measures could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5-17 percent by 2030.

In short, public transportation currently makes us more energy secure, and boosting its share of travel can and must be a key component in any strategy to drive our oil dependence down in the future. I hope you will join me in taking advantage of bus or train service in your area, and if you don’t have easy access I urge you to lobby your city, county and state to do a better job of providing it.

And then we can all dump the pump more often.