The Straight Dope: Transit Doesn’t Save Energy

As the Rio Grande Foundation and our guest speakers like John Charles (from Portland, OR) have pointed out, transit, despite its green reputation, is not as energy efficient as its backers would like us to believe. This includes Governor Richardson’s beloved Rail Runner.

It is understandable, of course, that greens and other backers of transit don’t buy what we have to say. But, when I picked up a copy of the Albuquerque Alibi last week, I found a very interesting article from The Straight Dope. If you aren’t familiar with it, Straight Dope is a “mythbuster” column that attempts to get to the heart of reality on various topics. There is no conservative bias but the truth. Well, the column which can be found here and clearly backs up the assertion that mass transit simply does not save energy.

The author’s conclusion is in his own words here:

On the face of it, then, transit currently offers no energy advantage over cars except in the handful of cities with heavy rail — and not all of those. (Chicago’s an outlier.) Estimates of auto efficiency vary depending on how many passengers you assume they’re carrying, so I won’t say transit is an energy loser. Instead I’ll agree with O’Toole: from an energy perspective, transit vs. cars is pretty much a wash.

Good to see independent sources verifying our data!

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3 Replies to “The Straight Dope: Transit Doesn’t Save Energy”

  1. I am not surprised that transit and cars are a wash in gas guzzling but that sure is not true of guzzling tax payer money!!

  2. No surprise to me. My degree is in transportation. To make any transportation system to work efficiently you need critical mass whether you’re moving freight or people. There are few areas of the world that have sufficient density to justify mass transit from a financial perspective. As I recall from “War on the Dream” by Wendell Cox there are only two or three mass transit systems in the world that actually pay for themselves and those are in very dense population areas like Tokyo or New York. New Mexico falls far short of the needed density to make fixed rail systems work. When you look at US Regional Spending for mass transit vs the travel share of autos vs mass transit you find that we spend about 50% each on roads and mas transit but 98% of travel is on roads and only 2% on mass transit. Seems like we’re wasting a lot of money, yet new urbanist planners continue to try to force more an more population density as they plan our communities.

    There are valid reasons to have mass transit in congested metropolitan areas. In addition to some reduction in traffic there is also a need to serve those who can’t drive for a variety reasons.

    But we’ve wasted a lot of money on the Rail Roader that could have been more wisely spent on natural gas fueled buses runnign between Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

  3. In todays Journal (1/25) that Richardson can find another 750K for the Rail Runner but has to cut families with Developmental Disabilities because the State doesn’t have the money.

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