The advocacy group Environment Maryland reports that Maryland ranked No. 3 among the states in 2008 for its gains in transit ridership over the previous year. The group estimated that state residents saved 60.7 million gallons of gasoline as a result of the more than 15 percent gain in the use of transit.
The gain obviously reflects the huge jump in gasoline prices between 2007 and 2008, but it still reflects well on regional transit agencies that they ranked so high nationally. Only Louisiana and North Carolina reported greater gains as both posted 16 percent increases.
Maryland Third in Nation for Increased Transit Ridership
Record-breaking transit ridership saved fuel equal to the amount consumed by 105,200 cars in Maryland last year
Baltimore -- In 2008, people in Maryland saved 60.7 million gallons of gasoline by riding transit in record numbers – the amount consumed by 105,200 cars in Maryland. Transportation is responsible for more than two-thirds of our dependence on oil, and about one-third of our carbon dioxide pollution Environment Maryland outlined in their new report Getting On Track: Record Transit Ridership Increases Energy Independence.
”People are voting with their feet by driving less and taking more public transportation,” said Mike Sherling of Environment Maryland. “Congress should listen to these voters and invest more in public transportation, which will increase our energy independence and reduce global warming pollution,” Sherling added.
Maryland ranks third in the nation for percent increase in transit ridership, which increased by more than 15 percent above 2007 levels.
People in Maryland drove less, with 1.8 billion fewer miles driven in 2008 than in the year before - a 4 percent decrease. People drove less due in part to volatile fuel prices and decreased economic activity, and many of these car trips were replaced by transit.
“Increased funding for public transit would generate jobs and provide transit services that Marylanders clearly want and need,” said David McClure, President of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1300.
In 2008 increased national transit ridership saved more than 4 billion gallons of gasoline, the equivalent of the fuel nearly 7.2 million cars – almost as many passenger cars as are registered in Florida – consume in one year.
“Despite the huge potential for transit to reduce oil consumption and pollution, the vast majority of transportation funding is spent on roads,” said Sherling. “Instead of wasting money to build new highways that only increase our dependence on oil, our leaders here in Maryland and in Congress should drive more money to transit, rail, and better biking and walking options,” Sherling added.
These figures do not take into account the other benefits of increased transit ridership – benefits that include reduced congestion, fewer hours stuck in traffic, reductions in smog and soot pollution or money saved by households regularly taking transit.
“Environment Maryland's report could not have come at a better time.” says Otis Rolley, President and CEO of Central Maryland Transportation Alliance. “In this time of statewide economic hardship, an investment in transit makes dollars and sense. This report provides evidence that not only are more Maryland residents taking transit, but that those trips are helping to protect one of Maryland's greatest resources, its environment.”
In addition to fuel savings, public transportation reduced global warming pollution in Maryland by 547,000 tons in 2008.
“This report serves to underscore the value of building the light rail Red Line and, beyond that, further strengthening rail transit resources in the Baltimore region,” said Donald C. Fry, president & CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee, a leading business advocate for expanding rail transit.
“Modern light rail transit would not only enhance mobility in our region, it would have economic benefits as well. Transit-oriented development along the Red Line corridor alone would create an estimated 33,000 jobs,” Fry said.
In order to maximize public transportation potential to save energy and reduce pollution, Environment Maryland is asking our local, state, and federal leaders to:
+ Issue overarching goals for reducing oil dependence and pollution through transportation, which will guide better policy.
+ Increase investment in cleaner public transportation, to include transit, high speed rail, and better walking and biking options.
+ Level the playing field in terms of funding and approving transit projects, relative to road projects. Approval of transit and highway investments should be governed by an equivalent set of rules and matching ratios.
+ Increase funding for transit maintenance and day-to-day operations, in addition to improving and expanding capacity. Federal, state and local funds should allow for greater flexibility in funding operations - new buses and trains are useless without drivers to drive them and mechanics to maintain them.
In the near term, Environment Maryland is calling on Congress to incorporate the full provisions of CLEAN TEA (the Clean, Low Emissions, Affordable New Transportation Equity Act, S.575 ), into the climate bill being debated now in the Senate. CLEAN TEA would direct 10 percent of climate bill allowances to clean transportation efforts that will save oil and reduce emissions.
“We applaud Senator Cardin for co-sponsoring the CLEAN TEA bill. We hope Senator Mikulski will support this forward-thinking legislation to save oil and reduce pollution,” Sherling added.