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PORTSIDE  December 2012, Week 1

PORTSIDE December 2012, Week 1

Subject:

Sandy Tells Us Climate is Right for Mass Public Transit

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Date:

Thu, 6 Dec 2012 23:30:52 -0500

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Sandy Tells Us Climate is Right for Mass Public Transit

Think About the Transportation Sector 

by Bill McKibben and Lawrence J. Hanley

December 5, 2012
Huff Post Green - Huffington Post

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-mckibben/think-about-the-transport_b_2247048.html

Superstorm Sandy has made it clear that no matter how hard
some politicians try to ignore climate change, climate
change will not ignore them -- or any of us. More carbon
means higher seas, the kind that inundate subways. The U.S
can also thank carbon emissions for contributing to the
hottest summers on record, massive wildfires, and crippling
droughts. The good news is, we can take some pretty serious
steps to cut carbon pretty easily -- and make lives better
at the same time.

Think about the transportation sector, which accounts for 27
percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, mostly from
cars and trucks. Tailpipe pollution is also a major source
of asthma and other illnesses -- the transport sector
contributes 80 percent of the harmful air pollutants that
cause 1.3 million premature deaths each year. Road
fatalities claim 33,000 lives per year on average, making
traffic accidents the number one killer of people under 34
in the U.S. And traffic congestion is known to elevate
stress levels and reduce quality of life for millions.

We can drive more fuel-efficient cars, of course, and
President Obama deserves praise for raising mileage
standards (though if he approves the Keystone XL tar sands
pipeline he will wipe out all those gains). But much bigger
cuts in emissions will come if we scale up public transport
systems. A recent poll conducted by the Natural Resources
Defense Council suggests that this would be popular with the
public, 59 percent of who believe that the U.S.
transportation system is "outdated, unreliable and
inefficient." Americans also want to be less dependent on
cars. Today, 55 percent prefer to drive less, but 74 percent
say they have no choice, and 58 percent would like to use
public transportation more often, but it is not convenient
or available from their home or work.

The U.S. therefore needs a 3-step mass transit program to
help our communities thrive, protect our climate, and
promote human health.

Step 1: Stop the budget cuts that are decimating public
transit systems across the United States. Since 2009,
approximately 85 percent of public transit systems have
raised fares or cut service, and thousands of workers in the
industry have been laid off. These cuts are hurting ordinary
people who rely on public transit to get to work, school,
medical appointments and to take care of family members.
This is happening at a time when more riders are using mass
transit as an alternative to driving.

Step 2: Redirect federal investments in ways that massively
expand and improve the U.S. transit system. We need to bring
quality public transport systems to the 57 percent of the
public who today have limited or no access to mass transit
and therefore rely on cars and taxis to get around. This
will require shifting public money towards building new bus,
subway and rail systems. If mass transit investments rose
steadily, it would provide efficient, quality transport
services, and reduce emissions and harmful pollution at the
same time. Investing in transit is also a good way to create
jobs in the U.S. -- for every billion dollars spent on
transit investments 36,000 Americans secure a good job.

Step 3: Make mass transit free, or reduce its cost
dramatically, by taking the money we waste now on fossil
fuel subsidies and redirecting it towards our transit
systems. Senator Bernie Sanders has identified more than
$113 billion in fossil fuel subsidies that can be eliminated
over the next decade; that could fill fareboxes, which in
turn would fill our buses and trains.

Sandy was the largest hurricane ever measured -- its
tropical force winds stretched out 1,040 miles from the eye.
The barometric pressure had never dropped this low north of
Cape Hatteras. It was unprecedented in every way -- but
almost certainly a harbinger of what the future will bring
if we keep raising the temperature. When Sandy flooded New
York's subways, it brought the city to a halt. Re-opening
the system was a challenge -- but the real challenge is
bringing mass transit to a nation that very much wants it.

===

[Lawrence J. Hanley is international president of the
Amalgamated Transit Workers (
http://www.atu.org/union/leadership/hanley)

[Bill McKibben, author, is co-founder of 350.org, (
http://www.350.org/) an organization committed to building a
global grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis.
Follow Bill McKibben on Twitter:
www.twitter.com/billmckibben]

==========

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