Monday, January 19, 2009

WHY PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION IS BETTER THAN BUILDING MORE ROADS

Carli Paine, New America Media - Last week, Democrats in the House of Representatives revealed their economic recovery package, which calls for $90 billion in roads, bridges, waterways, and transit infrastructure investments. Public transportation capital investments would receive $10 billion under this proposal and $30 billion would go for highway construction. . .

In fact, public transportation creates 19 percent more jobs than the same investment in building roads or highways, according to an analysis of a 2004 United States Department of Transportation jobs creation model. And, according to the California Transit Association, for every $1 billion invested in new public transit projects, some 31,400 jobs are created and $3 billion is pumped into the local economy.

The figures make a lot of sense when you consider the difference in these endeavors: building new roads and expanding highways mostly involves paving over dirt, with some amount of construction of raised flyovers and interchanges. Extending a rail line means manufacturing the rail and the rail cars, then laying them, and after they are laid, on-going operation of the train. Similarly, new bus lines involve vehicle and parts manufacturing and long-term operations. Because most transit agencies also have Buy America policies, public transportation investment creates industry jobs in the United States, as well as construction jobs - operating jobs are an added plus.

For individuals struggling to reduce their personal expenses in this affordability crisis, being able to rely on buses and trains can free up money that would otherwise be spent on a car. In the United States, transportation is the second highest household expense, after housing. But people who live in a neighborhood well served by public transportation are able to reduce their spending on transportation from 25 percent of their household budget to just 9 percent. The money they save can go to ensuring that they pay their mortgage or rent on time or these dollars can go back into the economy through purchasing goods and services. . .

With transportation contributing one-third of all global warming pollution nationally, it's clear that we need transportation solutions that give people reliable, affordable alternatives to driving for every trip. Public transportation produces 95 percent less carbon monoxide (CO), 90 percent less in volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and about half as much carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx), per passenger mile, as private vehicles.

Carli Paine is the transportation program director for TransForm. TransForm (formerly the Transportation and Land Use Coalition) works for world-class transportation and walkable communities in the Bay Area and beyond