Research Recap, November 28: Public Transit Saves, Necessary Electrics, The Cost of Air Pollution

Switching from private vehicle transport to public transport saves $14,458 annually in New York City. Photo by Johnathan Lopez.

Welcome to “Research Recap,” our series highlighting recent reports, studies and other findings in sustainable transportation policy and practice, in case you missed it.

Public Transit Saves

The American Transportation Association (APTA) released its monthly “Transit Savings Report,” outlining how much one can save both monthly and annually by switching from private vehicle transport to public transit. The report ranks the 20 U.S. cities with the highest transit ridership from the largest amount of monetary savings to the least. The four cities with the most savings are as follows:

  1. New York City: $1,205 monthly savings and $14,458 annual savings
  2. Boston: $1,114 monthly savings and $13,364 annual savings
  3. San Francisco: $1,088 monthly savings and $13,059 annual savings
  4. Seattle: $992 monthly savings and $11,901 annual savings

The report’s calculations are based on the purchase price of monthly transit passes, the local monthly unreserved parking rates, and the local gas prices as of November 18, 2011.

Necessary Electric Fuel

A new study examining energy consumption in California calculates that a decarbonized energy supply and increased energy efficiency will not be sufficient in meeting the state’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. The study asserts that along with a decarbonized energy supply and increased energy efficiency, direct fuel sources (e.g. gasoline in cars) will need to transition to fully electric in order to meet California’s current climate change plans. These conclusions were reached by creating a detailed model of the California economy, dividing it into six energy demand sectors and two energy supply sectors, and constructing a baseline scenario incorporating government forecasts of population and gross state product. The study was conducted by Energy and Environmental Economics, the Monterey Institute of International Studies, University of California, Berkeley, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The Cost of Air Pollution

Air pollution from Europe’s 10,000 largest polluting facilities cost citizens between €102–169 billion (US$135–224 billion) in 2009, according to a new report from the European Environment Agency (EEA). The industrial facilities examined in the report were large power plants, refineries, manufacturing combustion and industrial processes, waste and certain agricultural activities. The measured pollutants of the included industrial facilities were regional and local air pollutants, particulate matter, heavy metals, organic micro-pollutants, and carbon dioxide. In isolating per capita impact, the report found that the air pollution cost each European citizen €200–330 (US$265–437) on average in 2009. The emissions of power plants created the largest share of Europe’s total damages, with €66–112 billion (US$87–148 billion). Some health and environmental indicators were not included in the report, including risks associated with occupational exposure to air pollutants.

City Parks Reduce Crime

Converting abandoned city lots into parks and green spaces has led to a decrease in crime in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This unforeseen improvement began in 1999 with the inception of a 10-year Pennsylvania Horticultural Society program to transform the city’s abandoned lots into green space. In total, the program has converted 4,436 lots, creating 7.8 million square feet of new green area, and it has led to decreases in gun-related assaults, vandalism, and criminal mischief in the reclaimed spaces. Researchers postulate that the crime reductions stem from would-be-criminals perceiving that the manicured land is well-monitored, and thus not areas advantageous for illegal activity. Another hypothesis offered by the researchers is that well-kept parks aren’t as good as vacant lots for hiding guns and other contraband. The city of Philadelphia still houses more than 50,000 abandoned properties.

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