APTA | Passenger Transport
August 3, 2009

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‘Moving Cooler’: Bundling Strategies Works Best
By JOHN R. BELL, Program Manager-Communications

A groundbreaking report on how the United States can move toward a more sustainable transportation strategy was introduced by several members of Congress and representatives of nonprofit organizations at a July 28 event in Washington, DC, attended by more than 200 people.

Moving Cooler: An Analysis of Transportation Strategies for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions shows that an expansion of public transportation, coordinated with combining travel activity, land-use development, road pricing, and operational efficiencies, can reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) levels by 24 percent. It estimates that the annual savings in vehicle costs to consumers would exceed the cost of enacting these strategies by as much as $112 billion.

In addition, the report finds that, from 1996 to 2006, growth in U.S. transportation GHG emissions accounted for nearly half the increase in total such emissions. Therefore, reducing the transportation sector’s GHG emissions is key to reducing those of the nation. The research, conducted by Cambridge Systematics, analyzed strategies and their impact through 2050.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) embraced the report’s findings, saying he was “very excited about what you have done to set the stage” for a greener transportation sector. He mentioned the climate change bill that the House recently passed as an opportunity to make greater investments in public transit, adding: “I hope that the Senate goes far beyond what the House did, and there seems to be some indication” that this may happen. The House narrowly approved the bill to contain GHG emissions, which has moved to the Senate for its consideration.

Deputy Secretary of Transportation John Porcari emphasized that no one “magic bullet” exists for the transportation sector to solve climate change. "There is no single strategy that can be pursued to help us turn our corner,” he said. “We need to look at a number of options.”

“This particular study really gives us what we need more than anything else—and that is the hard facts,” said Peter Rogoff, administrator of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). He said the report gives “not just options, but also bundles of options,” which would have a “multiplier effect” when used together. For instance, he talked about how enhanced public transportation, combined with smart growth, will provide greater access for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Rogoff cited the federal Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction (TIGGER) program as an example of how public transportation systems have eagerly embraced their role in addressing climate change.

Also at the event, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-MN) called for immediate passage of the new transportation authorization legislation, citing an APTA white paper finding that a 10 percent mode shift from automobiles to public transit would eliminate the equivalent of all oil the U.S. currently imports from Saudi Arabia—550 million barrels per year.

“An integrated, multi-strategy approach would make the right moves, make the right choices, and move us in the right directions,” Oberstar said. “You’ve come along at the right time, with the right message, with the right initiative. Let’s move,” he said, “and let’s move cooler.”

Moving Cooler provides a good database from which to start in building America’s future transportation system, said APTA President William Millar. “This study confirms that to be effective in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector, we must move beyond thinking about individual modes,” said Millar. “With comprehensive and systematic changes in how we approach transportation and land use, public transit and other strategies can play a significant role in addressing climate change. It is time for all of us in the transportation industry to do our part.”

In responding to a question about public transit’s ability to thrive only in traditional Northeastern enclaves, Millar noted that there is no area of the nation where public transit cannot flourish. “Dallas is underway with the biggest light rail project in the nation,” he said, “and 15 years ago people didn’t think Texans would take public transit.” The same has been true of Denver and Salt Lake City, he said—both of which have thriving, expanding public transit systems.

Sens. Tom Carper (D-DE) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) also spoke and urged stronger action on climate change.

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Executive Director Peter Lehner said the report “shows that we can align our transportation, climate, and energy policies to reduce oil consumption, cut heat-trapping pollution, and increase savings for consumers.”

The report was sponsored by APTA, the Urban Land Institute, FTA, Federal Highway Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, NRDC, Shell Oil Company, Rockefeller Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Surdna Foundation, Kresge Foundation, Intelligent Transportation Society of America, and Environmental Defense Fund.

A presentation of the report will be made Aug. 4 in Salt Lake City as part of APTA’s Sustainability Workshop.

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