Here's a Great Way to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint: Take Transit

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CC BY 2.0. Lloyd Alter/ This needs fixing

TreeHugger previously covered the news that transportation is now the biggest source of CO2 in the US. Now TransitScreen points out a solution to the problem: take transit. They say it is time for action:

The responsibility to reduce our carbon footprint lies with both the government and with its citizens; for the government, this means creating infrastructure and public transportation services to accommodate a growing demand. For its citizens, it means committing to making a change at a personal level.

In our post, we noted that really, we are just nibbling around the edges when we talk about light bulbs and insulation:

We have reached the point where transportation, 80% of which is in cars, is the single biggest source of carbon dioxide in the country. We can talk about making our buildings more efficient and buying LED bulbs, but it is our cars, and our car oriented planning, and our car culture that is killing us all.

TransitScreen shows it in a graph:

graph of co2 savings

© Transitscreen

Public transportation is the single greatest way to reduce one’s personal carbon footprint — and one of the most immediate. Other options, such as replacing light bulbs with energy-efficient versions, hardly compare.
CO2 mode of transport

© Transitscreen

Now one might argue the point that they don’t show bikes or walking as alternatives to the private auto, both of which have even lower CO2 emissions per passenger mile.

Transit screen also points to an interesting PDF from the American Public Transportation Association that shows other interesting data, including these pies showing what proportion of our footprint comes from our cars:

household CO2


TransitScreen complains that public transit is underfunded and often in terrible shape (look at Washington’s once glorious Metro system) and that a third of Americans don’t have access to any transit.

But it doesn’t really get into the main reason that transit use is so low in most of North America, which is the fact that 53 percent of Americans live in suburbs where transit just doesn’t work very well. At best, suburban transit is bus-oriented and according to their graph, it is the worst transit mode for CO2 emissions, twice as bad as rail. So the answer is not as simple as simply saying “take transit”.

But it’s a start.