Stepping out of your vehicle and onto public transportation is a simple way to cut pollution, improve air quality and reduce your carbon footprint. Taking public transit reduces greenhouse gases and conserves energy. Fewer cars on the road means fewer emissions released.
On June 14, Minnesota welcomed a new transit option, the METRO Green Line, a light rail connecting Minneapolis and St. Paul. The light rail runs on electricity, making the train a zero-emission travel option. Nearly 20 percent of the train’s electricity sources come from renewable sources, including hydroelectric and wind power. According to Metro Transit, choosing the light rail instead of driving alone reduces greenhouse gas emissions by more than 70% per mile on average.
The average commuter produces several tons of emissions each year. In Minnesota, over half of all the air pollution comes from vehicles. Each mile of driving you eliminate, saves one pound of carbon dioxide. Public transportation expends far fewer quantities of air pollutants per passenger mile. An individual who use public transportation instead of driving a car will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 4,800 pounds each year. Use American Public Transit Association’s Carbon Savings Calculator to calculate household savings.
Health benefits of public transportation
During the summer months, when harmful ozone levels are highest, riding public transit can make a greater difference in air quality and improve public health, especially for those with health and breathing problems. Elevated levels of ozone have been linked with respiratory problems, causing shortness of breath and breathing discomfort, and resulting in coughing and a sore or scratchy throat.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency issues air quality alerts when higher concentrations of ozone and smog in the air create breathing difficulties for sensitive groups including elderly and children. Reducing how often you drive by yourself helps to combat those conditions.
Other transportation options
One of the greatest contributions we can all make to improving air quality is to use alternatives to driving a car. When public transportation isn’t an option, try these:
- Choose walking or biking within 2 miles
- Bicycle share options like Nice Ride allow you to take a bike when you need one
- Explore other options. Many paths across the state are paved, allowing not only bicyclists but also those interested in rollerblading, walking, scooting and Segway-ing. In fact, statewide many businesses provide rentals for all sorts of transportation options, including rollerblades, bicycles, Segways, kayaks and canoes. Be creative!
For more information
Find more information about your vehicle and the environment on MPCA's vehicles webpage.