Transit riders tell Congress, don’t miss the bus

Media Releases

Environment Colorado

Transit advocate Vivian Stovall joined the Colorado Association of State Transit Agencies (CASTA), Environment Colorado and other groups calling on Congress to back funding for transit development. At the event Environment Colorado released Getting On Track: Record Transit Ridership Increases Energy Independence, a report showing record ridership on RTD and other regional transit agencies in 2008. The report also highlighted continuing growth in light rail ridership on RTD in the first half of 2009.  

According to the report, in 2008 people in Colorado saved 39.6 million gallons of gasoline by riding transit in record numbers – the amount consumed by 68,729 cars in Colorado.  Transportation is responsible for more than two-thirds of our dependence on oil, and about one-third of our carbon dioxide pollution.

“Congress needs to get on the bus. People are voting with their feet and the message is clear, they want more public transit options,” said Keith Hay, energy advocate for Environment Colorado.  “The Senate needs to make sure that the energy bill invests more in public transportation. That’s an investment in energy independence and an important step in reducing global warming pollution,” Hay added.

In Colorado, transit ridership in 2008 increased by more than 8 percent above 2007 levels. For RTD, that increase was slightly larger at 9 percent. Light rail growth for RTD continued to increase in the first half of 2009, showing 1 percent growth in that period.

People in Colorado drove less, with 1,209 million fewer miles driven in 2008 than in the year before – a 3 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.

“Increased funding for transit can reduce oil consumption and pollution,” said Elena Wilken, Executive Director, Colorado Association of State Transit Agencies. “We encourage our leaders here in Colorado and in Congress to spend more money on increasing transit service, rail, and better biking and walking options,” Wilken added.

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. 

“Every additional dollar we spend on public transit improves the quality of life for all Coloradans, by making us less dependent on foreign oil and reducing carbon emissions, smog, and asthma attacks,” said Stephanie Thomas, Smart Growth and Transportation Advocate for Colorado Environmental Coalition.

In order to maximize public transportation potential to save energy and reduce pollution, Environment Colorado 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 Colorado and other groups are 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.

“We hope Senators Udall and Bennet will support this forward-thinking legislation to save oil and reduce pollution,” Hay added.