Public Transit Protects Our Planet


Voices for Public Transit is highlighting the positive impact public transportation has on our environment and the role it plays in eliminating greenhouse gas emissions to help improve our air quality and combat climate change.


Improving Air Quality

Transportation produces roughly a quarter of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Fortunately, public transit is helping to increase efficiency, decrease emissions, and reduce gasoline consumption.

  • The average trip on public transit produces 55% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than driving a car or using a ridesharing service like Uber or Lyft.
  • Public transportation reduces our nation’s carbon footprint by 63 million metric tons annually.
  • On average, public transportation reduces gasoline consumption in the United States by 6 billion gallons annually—that’s more than 16.4 million gallons of gas saved every day.

Bottom line: Investing in and increasing the use of public transit translates to cleaner air and water for our communities, and that benefits everyone—whether they use public transit every day, rarely, or not at all.


Advancing Renewable and Clean Energy

Public transit is one of the most fuel- and energy-efficient ways to get around. Public transportation agencies across the country are increasingly adopting clean and renewable energy technologies that make their services even more climate-friendly.
Considering an electric bus emits 62% fewer emissions than an average diesel bus, electrification is one of the ways local transit agencies are working to reduce emissions and lower our carbon footprint—but it certainly isn’t the only way.

Most modern rail vehicles are powered by electricity and generate little or no emissions. Additionally, many local transit agencies also purchase clean electricity produced by wind, solar, hydropower, or other renewable sources to power their rail lines and even their operations.

Not only does that help public transit agencies increase efficiency and decrease emissions even further, but it also encourages local utilities to ramp up the development and production of more forms of renewable energy. That makes renewables more affordable and accessible for all consumers, regardless of whether they use public transit directly.


Driving Sustainability in Our Cities

Nationwide, public transit agencies are eliminating greenhouse gas emissions and fighting for our environment by investing in a range of renewable and clean energy technologies.

  • Last fall, the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority purchased 60 fully electric buses as the local public transit agency aims to build the “biggest electric battery-powered bus fleet in North America.
  • The Chicago Transit Authority is working to transition its entire fleet of nearly 1,900 buses to “renewable electric energy by 2040,” improving air quality while saving money on fuel and maintenance and reducing noise pollution.
  • The Bay Area Rapid Transit system set a goal to get at least half of the electricity it uses from renewable resources by 2025—and “made a commitment to reach 100% renewable energy by 2045.”

Most importantly, it isn’t just public transit agencies in big cities that are going green and helping power a cleaner, more renewable energy future—smaller cities nationwide are stepping up to the plate.

  • The Antelope Valley Transit Authority serving suburban and rural communities in Southern California recently became the first public transit agency in the country to have a fully electrified fleet, “hitting its zero-emissions goal a full 18 years earlier” than expected.
  • The SunLine Transit Agency first transitioned its fleet of buses from diesel to cleaner-burning compressed natural gas (CNG) back in 1993 and has become a leader in hydrogen technologies. The agency’s current fleet includes 21 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, helping it stay on track to a zero-emissions fleet by 2035.
  • South Bend Transpo in Indiana began converting its fleet to CNG in 2014, and is using funding from the recently passed bipartisan infrastructure law to purchase 11 new CNG-powered buses that will replace the agency’s last remaining diesel buses.
  • The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada is using $7 million in funding from the bipartisan infrastructure law to purchase new hydrogen fuel cell-powered buses as well as install solar-powered lighting at bus stops, improving safety and sustainability.

On Earth Day and every day, public transit plays a critical role in eliminating carbon emissions, improving air quality, and advancing renewable and clean energy solutions that help protect the environment and secure a cleaner, more sustainable future for everyone.

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