How much gasoline is saved annually by public transportation?

You might be surprised at the answer.

The Center for American Progress tweeted today that public transportation saves about 4.2 billion gallons.

Sounds like a lot, except that we burned 134 billion gallons in 2011, according to the Department of Energy.

So public transport reduces gasoline consumption by only about 3 percent!

18 thoughts on “How much gasoline is saved annually by public transportation?”

  1. That alternative study was done in Portland about 10 years ago, and a local taxi company offered to take care of the late night runs that were mostly empty, for a fraction of the price. The transit drivers’ union shot it down. Check out Demographia.Com for studies of urban areas worldwide, on topics of transit, liveability, cost of living, etc.

  2. Howdy RK
    In Billings, our taxis sometimes run along routes, picking up several fares and dropping them off like a jitney might but also going door-to-door near the routes. I think they charge a standard fare along these routes rather than mileage. Our clinics often use vouchers for the taxis so patients can get home.

  3. Buses and Trains “also spend a lot of fuel traveling around looking for those customers.”

    The trucking term for running empty is “Dead Heading” and except for during the morning and evening commuting peaks commuter Buses and Trains Dead Head all day long.

    Has anybody studied if Jitnies or vouchers for Taxi use would be more cost effective in many locales than City Bus systems running on scvhedules?

  4. It is estimated that it costs the TAXPAYERS one hundred five dollars per passenger for a 7 mile trip on our light (heavy on the pocketbook) rail boondoggle we have in Seattle….and the politicians consider it a success.
    With that mindset in place, can the end be far off?

  5. But people who use public transport invariably use taxis far more often than those that own there own transport. Also, taxis also spend a lot of fuel traveling around looking for those customers.

    People who depend on public transport rely on home delivery vehicles to deliver goods and services.

  6. Something to that. I’ve rarely been afraid of anyone I let in my car but I’ve had some nervy moments on buses.

  7. “One Amtrak run — Chicago to Florida — would have been more cost effective by giving every passenger a free, first class airline ticket. I think that service was finally dropped…” Not if Obama or Chu or Lahood was involved.

  8. I’ve seen the people who ride the metro buses around here. No way am I getting on board with that demographic without a sidearm and an air filter mask. Around here, it’s a very (ahem) select group that benefits from public transpo.

  9. Meanwhile Obama wants to spend billions on “high speed trains” and most highway projects funded by the Feds requires a “mass transit” component. Communities are (sometimes forced) to build or extend trolley car lines (which are expensive, often underutilized, and inflexible — but they’re “in style”). But the figure does match up pretty well with San Francisco’s BART — as one of the “most successful” public transit systems in the country manages to haul about 3 to 4 percent of the daily commuters in the SF Bay Area. (Ever wonder what would happen to highway traffic if there’s a transit strike? When BART went on strike a few years ago … nobody (on the highways) noticed!)

    When all the costs, including capital costs, of rail transit are considered, it is doubtful that it is cost effective. (Systems all require significant subsidies to operate.) Busses are more reasonable, as they can be rerouted to serve underserved areas and do not have the exceedingly high capital cost of rail transit. But far too many routes run with near-empty busses for many hours of the day — suggesting that some sort of on-demand system (for the off hours) might make more economic sense. (One Amtrak run — Chicago to Florida — would have been more cost effective by giving every passenger a free, first class airline ticket. I think that service was finally dropped.)

  10. So, I have a question: where does this estimate come from? The idea that if someone is NOT on a bus or train then they must be driving a car is just plain silly. So, where do the numbers come from, if not plucked from a place where the sun don’ shine?

  11. Fuel efficiency is not the goal of a bus service. Reliability is what keeps it in business. Buses tend to be on time most of the time, even if they have to run empty.

    I once rode a three-car train on which I was the only passenger. It was almost a 100-mile ride. Halfway through the trip, a conductor enters the car and says, “Tickets, please!”

    I say, “Tickets? All 300 of them?”

  12. And what about the cost of the lost productivity? Public transit for me would take at least twice as long to get to work. I guess they figure our time is free.

  13. The devil is in the details. Did they factor in the fuel used by public transit? Did they assume that all of the public transit riders would have otherwise driven a car alone for the same distance? Obviously many would have just walked, ridden a bike, carpooled, etc. I’m sure all assumptions were quite generous, so the real amount “saved” is likely significantly lower. Then what was the cost of this “savings”? I wonder what that comes to in $/gallon.

  14. Has anyone looked at the means by which CAP derived their estimate of 4.2 billion gallons saved? I would guess that the figure might be a bit inflated.

  15. What does CPAC think they invented public transportation? CPAC Presents: The Solutions of Yesteryear!

    Riding horses of walking would save every gallon, but that would be inconvenient, uncorfortable, and slow. Kind of like public transportation.

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