Invest in Public Transit to Slow Climate Change

Reflecting on the significance and impact of Superstorm Sandy, Bill McKibben and Lawrence J. Hanley propose a 3-step process focused on mass transit that America should pursue to promote community development, public health and the environment.

December 7, 2012, 9:00 AM PST

By Erica Gutiérrez


For McKibben and Hanley, Hurricane Sandy has made it clear that politicians can no longer push climate change under the rug. Climate change contributes to rising sea levels and record heat waves, and the implications of these phenomenon are more apparent that ever before. For one significant place to tackle carbon emissions, they point to the transportation sector, and its role in contributing to 27 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. That's not the only way in which our auto-reliant lifestyles are harming the country. "The transport sector," they say, "contributes 80 percent of the harmful air pollutants that cause 1.3 million premature deaths each year. Road fatalities claim 33,000 lives per year on average, making traffic accidents the number one killer of people under 34 in the U.S. And traffic congestion is known to elevate stress levels and reduce quality of life for millions."

On the other hand, explain McKibben and Hanley, data from a recent poll conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council suggests that Americans are ready and willing to use public transportation and that they want to be less car dependent. However, they are often confronted with obstacles including what many believe are "outdated, unreliable and inefficient" public transportation systems across the country. The 3-steps they propose to address these matters includes: (1) stopping the budget cuts on public transit, (2) redirecting federal investments to expand and improve transit systems, and (3) making transit free or less costly by reallocating fossil fuel subsidies.

In conclusion, they warn that Hurricane Sandy was a “harbinger of what the future will bring” with continued global warming, and articulately state that “[w]hen Sandy flooded New York's subways, it brought the city to a halt. Re-opening the system was a challenge -- but the real challenge is bringing mass transit to a nation that very much wants it.”

Wednesday, December 5, 2012 in The Huffington Post

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