Benefits for the Environment

Public Transit Helps the Environment
Public transit = cleaner air. Motor vehicles are a prime contributor to air pollution. One of the best ways to improve air quality is to get people out of their single-passenger cars and into carpools and public transportation.

The federal Clean Air Act requires that local and regional transportation plans conform to stringent state air quality requirements in order to be approved for federal funding. If a region is designated either “non-attainment” or “non-compliant” in terms of poor air quality, they can lose millions of dollars in funding for highways and other transportation projects.

Without a strong transit network, the Northern Virginia area would almost certainly be a severe non-attainment area, requiring more costly and stringent measures to attain Clean Air standards.

One commuter using mass transit for a year instead of driving to work saves our environment from 9.1 pounds of hydrocarbons, 62.5 pounds of carbon monoxide and 4.9 pounds of nitrogen oxide.

A person who commutes to work by transit rather than driving alone saves 200 gallons of gasoline per year.

Traffic congestion contributes to air pollution and environmental damage. While public transportation does not eliminate congestion, public transit adds needed capacity to existing highways, which reduces congestion and benefits motorists.

Virginia motorists waste more than 20 minutes a day in rush hour traffic. The Metro Washington D.C. area (which includes Northern Virginia and parts of Maryland) ranked second nationally for time spent waiting in traffic. And in the Hampton Roads area, the average rush-hour travel speed on the 30 largest thoroughfares is a turtle’s crawl–17 m.p.h.

Traffic Congestion Facts:

  •  Every bus full of passengers removes 40 cars from traffic.

  • Every rail passenger car has the potential to remove up to 125 passengers.

  • An additional 226,000 vehicles would crowd the highways in Northern Virginia during rush hour if Metrorail did not exist.

  • An additional 26 interstate highway lanes would be needed for commuters during rush hour in the Washington, DC, area to replace Metrorail.

  • The Virginia Railway Express (VRE) moves an additional lane’s worth of traffic in the congested I-66 and I-95 corridors.