Role of Transit in a Low-GHG California

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Reducing the impact of green house gas (GHG) emission on the environment has become a national priority. The State of California had made it a goal to set targets for reducing GHG emission through enacting Senate Bill 375. About half of all GHG emissions in the U.S. come from transportation. Transit agencies can play a significant role in slowing the growth of GHG emissions as part of a carbon reduction regime. Improving connections between land use and transportation, increasing the availability and quality of public transport.

Innovative Approaches

A TCRP report on international efforts to address climate change suggest that U.S. transit providers can benefit from some of the approaches taken in European cities for reducing automobile dependence.[1] Examples include implementing quality bus corridors (QBCs) which provide shorter journeys and more consistent service through dedicated bus-only lanes and traffic signal prioritization, and coordinated feeder routes. Munich uses a mobility management system to provide new residents with information about transit options, while Frieberg, Germany adopted a regional transit pass that can be used on multiple systems to make using transit easier and increase ridership. It also provides facilities for bicycle storage and rental at its central station, and offers free and discounted transit passes for those who subscribe to a car sharing program.

The public transport authority for Milan, Italy has plans to improve parking outside the city center to encourage use of public transit, as well as supporting bicycle and car sharing programs, and improving pedestrian areas. The city's Ecopass program charges vehicles entering the center of town according to the pollution they generate with the objective of reducing automobile use so that public transit can provide better service. The fees collected are invested in sustainable transport. Metro Bilbao in Spain offers extremely frequent low-fare service on its two lines which is "fine-tuned" to match demand. Several continental systems are moving toward more energy efficient transit vehicles, purchasing lighter weight aluminum cars, adding regenerative braking and on-board capacitors for energy storage, monitoring energy consumption on cars, increasing their use of biofuels and hybrid-electric vehicles, and developing more efficient operating patterns. Despite historical differences between government frameworks and the role of the automobile between European and American cities, the authors of the report believe that transit can be can be a successful part of a climate change strategy.

These efforts can be combined with support for bicycling, walking, traffic and parking management.

Further Reading

Transit Cooperative Research Program, Research Results Digest 89, "Public Transportation's Role in Addressing Global Climate Change,", March 2009.

This TCRP digest prepared by the Eno Foundations summarizes the Spring 2008 mission performed under TCRP Project J-03, “International Transit Studies Program.” This digest includes transportation information on the organizations and facilities visited and their strategies to combat climate change through public transportation.

Transit Cooperative Research Program, Research Synthesis 72, "Use of Biodiesel in a Transit Fleet," 2007.

This report documents a full range of benefits offered by biodiesel so that transit agencies can make informed decisions regarding its use.


  1. Transit Cooperative Research Program, Research Results Digest 89, March 2009.