“Greening” the MTA

The recent MTA Sustainability Report lays out a comprehensive agenda for greening the agency, but in doing so misses the fundamentals of the situation.

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A little while back, the MTA (New York City’s transit operator) issued its Sustainability Report in which it “outlines scores of recommendations in a number of key areas of sustainability planning.” Now of course we should be in the habit of using only environmentally friendly vehicles in all municipal fleets, but this seems to be missing the forest for the trees. While it’s no doubt a noble goal for the MTA to draw 80% of its energy from renewable resources from 2050, we’d save a whole lot more gas and keep a whole lot more carbon out of the atmosphere if we simply used that money to buy more buses, more train cars, and make public transit more accessible. The report provides us with a handy graph that shows the relative carbon emissions per passenger-mile of various forms of transit. For the car, it’s it’s about 1.15 pounds of Co2 per mile, for the rush-hour bus or train its about 0.2. Whether these buses are running on beautiful rainbows or dirty old diesel is so much less important than making sure people are ditching their cars and taking transit to work.

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