$200 billion in funding for public transportation could make a big difference in the air everyone breathes. It could make a difference in the day-to-day mobility of many travelers. As US elections near, there is a definite tone within the US political system. This election cycle grasps for our vote. I think about all the money spent on this process. I wonder why this process goes on for two years — not six weeks, like other places. Are voters confused, or feeling a sense of futility, or lost about how effective their vote is?
Well, remember, there are ways to make a difference outside of the presidential election as well. That is to vote for policy efficiency, policies that protect your grandchildren. As part of that, $200 billion worth of public transit funding is up in the air in November elections.
However, transit amendments can be confusing and even misleading, and you must be sure to understand language, intent, context, and precise policies being proposed. I recommend absentee voting so you can have the time to decipher the things you vote on. We can transform mobility and work at a community level for less traffic, more options, lower emissions, and cleaner air and water.
The American Public Transportation Authority (APTA) brought our attention to transit issues on the ballot on November 8, 2016. Whether you choose public transit or not (as a personal choice), supporting public transit mitigates traffic congestion and keep the air cleaner. “If a local public transit measure is on the ballot in your community, it is vitally important that you come out to vote for it,” said APTA Acting President and CEO Richard A. White. “When people vote to improve or expand the local public transit system, they are voting for an improved quality of life and for the economic vitality of their region.”
There are more than 30 local referendums on public transportation on ballots across the US on November 8. “With approximately $200 billion in funding for public transportation, this is a game changer for people and the communities they live in,” White exclaims.
“Communities of all sizes are asking citizens to vote for initiatives that will determine their future,” said APTA Chair and Foothill Transit Executive Director Doran J. Barnes. “These initiatives and referendums are critical to expanding mobility options and to increasing the economic vitality of their communities.”
ATPA press shares some of the areas where ballot initiatives are up for a vote: Los Angeles ($120 billion), Seattle ($54 billion), San Diego ($7.5 billion), San Francisco ($3.5 billion), Santa Clara County ($3 billion), Atlanta ($2.5 billion), and Columbus ($620 million). Click here to see a list of the public transit ballot initiatives APTA has identified.
Understanding that something is going to be better is often the issue for passing such referendums. “When people understand how a ballot initiative will improve their community’s transportation network, they overwhelmingly vote to support the suggested funding,” said White.
Here are some public transportation benefits to consider and promote, via APTA:
Every segment of American society — individuals, families, communities, and businesses — benefits from public transportation.
Public Transportation Consists of a Variety of Modes
- Trolleys and light rail
- Commuter trains
- Cable cars
- Van pool services
- Paratransit services for Senior citizens and people with disabilities
- Ferries and water taxis
- Monorails and tramways
- In 2014, Americans took 10.8 billion trips on public transportation – – the highest in 58 years.
- Since 1995, public transit ridership is up 39 percent, outpacing population growth, which is up 21 percent, and vehicle miles traveled (VMT), which is up 25 percent.
- People board public transportation 36 million times each weekday.
- Public transportation is a $61 billion industry that employs more than 400,000 people.
- More than 7,200 organizations provide public transportation in the United States.
Public Transportation Enhances Personal Opportunities
- Public transportation provides personal mobility and freedom for people from every walk of life.
- Access to public transportation gives people transportation options to get to work, go to school, visit friends, or go to a doctor’s office.
- Public transportation provides access to job opportunities for millions of Americans.
Public Transportation Saves Fuel, Reduces Congestion
- Public transportation has a proven record of reducing congestion.
- The latest research shows that in 2011, U.S. public transportation use saved 865 million hours in travel time and 450 million gallons of fuel in 498 urban areas.
- Without public transportation, congestion costs in 2011 would have risen by nearly $21 billion from $121 billion to $142 billion in 498 urban areas.
Public Transportation Provides Economic Opportunities & Drives Community Growth and Revitalization
- Every $1 invested in public transportation generates approximately $4 in economic returns.
- Every $1 billion invested in public transportaiton supports and creates more than 50,000 jobs.
- Every $10 million in capital investment in public transportation yields $30 million in increased business sales.
- Home values performed 42 percent better on average if they were located near public transportation with high-frequency service.
Public Transportation Saves Money
- Using public transportation is the quickest way to beat high gas prices.
- According to APTA’s Transit Saving Report, a two-person household can save, on the average, more than $10,174 a year by downsizing to one car.
- Public transportation provides an affordable, and for many, necessary, alternative to driving.
Public Transportation Reduces Gasoline Consumption
- Public transportation use in the United States saves 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline annually.
- Households near public transit drive an average of 4,400 fewer miles than households with no access to public transit.
Public Transportation Reduces Carbon Footprint
- Public transportation use in the United States reduces our nation’s carbon emissions by 37 million metric tons annually. This is equivalent to Washington, DC; New York City; Atlanta; Denver; and Los Angeles combined stopping using electricity.
- One person with a 20-mile round trip commute who switches from driving to public transit can reduce his or her daily carbon emissions by 20 pounds, or more than 4,800 pounds in a year.
- A single commuter switching his or her commute to public transportation can reduce a household’s carbon emissions by 10 percent and up to 30 percent if he or she eliminates a second car.
For more public transportation facts, see the Public Transportation Fact Book.
Listen to the quiet sounds of public transit and a sweet example of integrated transit systems in the following video.
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- Top 20 Cities for Saving Money via Public Transportation
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Image Credit: Dsade via flickr/CC license