Public transit = (somewhat) less oil by mattsteinglass
July 23, 2008, 2:42 pm
Filed under: Transportation

My old Hebrew-school carpool mate Aaron Naparstek at Streetsblog publishes stats on how much oil consumption various metropolitan public transit systems save the US every year. New York City’s MTA — subways and buses — saves 1.28 billion gallons of oil per year, and if you add up all the NYC metropolitan area systems (MTA, Long Island Railroad, Metro North commuter rail, the PATH subways in northern New Jersey, and New Jersey Transit light rail and bus) it comes to 1.6 billion gallons per year.

This is a wonderful thing, but I’m not sure it’s quite as significant as it sounds. 1.6 billion gallons is 52 million barrels. The US imported 3.656 billion barrels of oil in 2007. The implication is that even if the NY metro area had no public transit at all, the US would have imported 3.708 billion barrels. That’s not a staggering difference. To put it another way, LA and Houston combined have about the same population as the NY metropolitan area. The chart seems to imply that if you built a NY-style transit system for both cities, which would be staggeringly expensive, you’d still only get oil imports down to about 3.6 billion barrels rather than 3.65 billion. I’m a huge public transit fan, but these numbers don’t seem to be quite where they need to be in order to have the needed impact. Maybe once they build the 2nd Avenue line and people start massively commuting via bike lanes all along the Hudson and East River greenways? And then if we added a Grand Central-to-JFK train? If the net were as dense as Paris’s, there’d be a lot less traffic backed up on the LIE.


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