Green Transit: Record-breaking transit ridership in California saved fuel equal to nearly a million cars last year

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Environment California Research & Policy Center

In 2008, people in California saved 554 million gallons of gasoline by riding transit in record numbers – the amount consumed by 960,100 cars. Transportation is responsible for more than two-thirds of our nation’s dependence on oil, and about one-third of our carbon dioxide pollution

Environment California outlined in their new report “Getting On Track: Record Transit Ridership Increases Energy Independence.

“People are voting with their feet by driving less and taking more public transportation,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, clean energy advocate with Environment California. “Congress should listen to these voters and invest more in public transportation, which will increase our energy independence and reduce global warming pollution,” Del Chiaro added

In California, transit ridership increased by more than 6 percent above 2007 levels.

People in California drove less, with 15,646 million fewer miles driven in 2008 than in the year before – a 5 percent decrease. People drove less due in part to volatile fuel prices and decreased economic activity, and many of these car trips were replaced by transit.

“Despite the huge potential for transit to reduce oil consumption and pollution, the vast majority of transportation funding is spent on roads,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro. “Instead of wasting money to build new highways that only increase our dependence on oil, our leaders here in California and in Congress should drive more money to transit, rail, and better biking and walking options,” Del Chiaro added.


In 2008 increased national transit ridership saved more than 4 billion gallons of gasoline, the equivalent of the fuel nearly 7.2million cars – almost as many passenger cars as are registered in Florida – consume in one year.

These figures do not take into account the other benefits of increased transit ridership – benefits that include reduced congestion, fewer hours stuck in traffic, reductions in smog and soot pollution or money saved by households regularly taking transit. 

In addition to fuel savings, public transportation reduced global warming pollution in California by 4,993,000 tons in 2008.

In order to maximize public transportation potential to save energy and reduce pollution, Environment California is asking our local, state, and federal leaders to:

  • Issue overarching goals for reducing oil dependence and pollution through transportation, which will guide better policy.
  • Increase investment in cleaner public transportation, to include transit, high speed rail, and better walking and biking options.
  • Level the playing field in terms of funding and approving transit projects, relative to road projects. Approval of transit and highway investments should be governed by an equivalent set of rules and matching ratios.
  • Increase funding for transit maintenance and day-to-day operations, in addition to improving and expanding capacity. Federal, state and local funds should allow for greater flexibility in funding operations – new buses and trains are useless without drivers to drive them and mechanics to maintain them.

In the near term, Environment California is calling on Congress to incorporate the full provisions of CLEAN TEA (the Clean, Low Emissions, Affordable New Transportation Equity Act, S. 575), into the climate bill being debated now in the Senate. CLEAN TEA would direct 10 percent of climate bill allowances to clean transportation efforts that will save oil and reduce emissions.

CAE-transpo-report-2009.pdf CAE-transpo-report-2009.pdf