“People are voting with their feet by driving less and taking more public transportation,” said Samantha Chadwick of Environment Minnesota, speaking at a press conference next to the light rail stop at Minneapolis City Hall on September 23. Environment Minnesota released a new report, Getting On Track: Record Transit Ridership Increases Energy Independence, showing that Minnesotans drove two percent fewer miles in 2008 than they did in 2007, and that public transportation ridership increased ten percent in the past three years. Chadwick believes that the increase in people using public transportation should be met with an increase in public transportation availability.
“Cutting service at a time when there is increasing demand for it is ridiculous,” said Michele Summers, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005.
A main roadblock that public transit faces is its lack of funding.
“Despite the huge potential for transit to reduce oil consumption and pollution, the vast majority of transportation funding is spent on roads,” said Chadwick. “Instead of doling out money to build new highways that increase pollution and our dependence on oil, our leaders here in Minnesota and in Congress should drive more money to transit, rail, and better biking and walking option.”
In addition to reducing oil consumption and greenhouse gas production, public transit has other positive qualities, Chadwick said. Among these are spending less time stuck in traffic, less smog and pollution, and money saved on car expenses.
Environment Minnesota’s goal is to improve policy at local, state, and national levels. “We want a future where every American can get to school and work via public transportation,” said Summers.