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Can Public Transportation Help Address Climate Change?

According to a recent article by Andrew J. Hawkins in The Verge “Public Transportation Can Save The World — If We Let It.” Hawkins makes this point through an examination of public transportation throughout the country including how COVID has affected public transportation, how public transportation can affect climate change, and what the future of public transportation in a post-COVID world may look like.

Across the country transit ridership numbers plummeted during the pandemic. Those numbers have begun to rise, faster in some areas than others. In all areas, they have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels.

According to Hawkins, “… experts worry that transit could be on the chopping block based on the historical reasoning that fewer riders means fewer dollars will be needed. That could create something called a “death spiral” — a cycle of terrible service leading to even fewer riders, leading to even more terrible service, and so on.”

Pre-pandemic, only 5 percent of Americans used transit to commute to work. Ridership has been in decline for the last few years. Americans tend to drive alone to work, rather than carpooling or using mass transit. Hawkins states that this shunning of mass transit has “clogged our roads, dirtied our skies, and made traffic fatalities a leading cause of death for many age groups.”

Per the recent report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the planet is getting hotter, wetter, and more inhospitable. Approximately one-third of all greenhouse gases are produced by transportation, mainly from tailpipe emissions. Studies show that an individual who switches from a 20-mile commute by car to public transit can reduce their annual CO2 emissions by 20 pounds per day, or more than 48,000 pounds in a year. That’s equal to a 10 percent reduction in all greenhouse gases produced by a typical two-adult, two-car household.

Hawkins notes, “Cleaner air, a cooler Earth, more vibrant and diverse cities — these are the things that reliable public transportation can give us. The question is not whether public transportation can survive Covid; it’s whether we can survive without public transportation.”

Read the full article here:

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