Report: Increased public transit use has reduced greenhouse gases

Bus stop
A bus stop in downtown Minneapolis.
MPR Photo/Tim Post

Public transit ridership in Minnesota rose by 5 percent last year, as part of a national trend spurred by rising gas prices and the economic downturn.

The increased ridership saved about 39 million gallons of gasoline, according to a new report by the advocacy group Environment Minnesota.

Minnesotans also drove less, with a two percent decline in miles driven in 2008 over the previous year.

The report, titled "Getting on Track: Record Transit Ridership Increases Energy Independence," found that the changes reduced the state's CO2 emissions by 352,000 tons.

Nationwide, transit ridership rose by four percent last year, saving over four billion gallons of gasoline, the report said.

North Carolina and Louisiana tied for sharpest increase in transit ridership nationwide, at 16 percent.

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"People are voting with their feet by driving less and taking more public transportation," said Samantha Chadwick of Environment Minnesota, in a statement.

Environment Minnesota organizers said the report highlights the need for additional public transportation funding.

"Despite the huge potential for transit to reduce oil consumption and pollution, the vast majority of transportation funding is spent on roads," Chadwick said. "Instead of doling out money to build new highways that increase pollution and our dependence on oil, our leaders here in Minnesota and in Congress should drive more money to transit, rail, and better biking and walking options."

The advocacy group has urged Congress to incorporate provisions known as CLEAN TEA (the Clean, Low Emissions, Affordable New Transportation Equity Act) into the climate bill currently under debate in the Senate.

The provisions would direct ten percent of money received from greenhouse gas permit sales to eco-friendly transportation efforts.