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86th Street Station, 4, 5, and 6 trains
Photo: saaby

Media coverage of climate change and most climate change legislation tends to neglect public transportation. This is odd, given the fact that public transportation is much more energy efficient than the automobile, even an electric one. Rail and bus transportation are integral aspects of any serious effort to slow the warming of the planet.

Global Warming has become a major focus of most environmental groups, as it should. However, I haven't seen as much from the environmental movement as I would expect on public transport as a critical aspect of reducing CO2 emissions. In order to determine whether this perception is reasonable or not, I decided to check the websites of major environmental organizations, focusing on ones that include Global Warming as part of their agenda. The results were surprisingly disappointing. (Note: I'm only linking to the ones doing a good job.)

Great Organization That Makes Public Transportation a Integral Part of Fighting Global Warming:
Friends of the Earth

Good Organization That Makes a Significant Effort on Public Transportation:
Environmental Working Group

Makes Public Transit a Higher Priority, But It Gets Diffused by Corporate Interests:
Environmental Defense Fund

- suckered by Bloomberg into supporting congestion tax whose funds never were intended for use on public transportation
- their emphasis is on "partnerships with corporations" which reduces ability to advocate in favor of the environment

Some Mentions of Public Transportation, But Not a High Priority
Climate Institute

Barely Mention Public Transportation:
Alliance for Climate Protection
Earth Day Network
National Resources Defense Council
Sierra Club
Union of Concerned Scientists
Wilderness Society
World Wildlife Fund

After looking at this, I really need to find out more about Friends of the Earth. I've heard of them before, I haven't done a very good job of following their work in the past. At least they get the fact that the supremacy of the automobile is a major hindrance to dealing with preventing Global Warming.

The Environmental Defense Fund's "partnerships with corporations" are an extreme example of a problem for many environmental groups. They often depend on financial support from the very same wealthy and corporate interests they need to be opposing. It's a dilemma with lots of liberal advocacy organizations, actually.

I should note that there is a lobbying group for public rail transit organizations. I don't usually like industry lobbies, but the work of this one happens to coincide with the public interest completely. The American Public Transportation Association has a site geared towards advocacy by the general public.



  1. ultragreen Says:
  2. Many environmental groups are not attuned to urban ecological issues, and so the results of your review are not surprising. Staff members of these groups invariably drive automobiles, and they often have little, or no, experience with mass transit in large cities.

    I would be cautious, however, about evaluating the work of an entire environmental group on the basis of a single issue.

  3. if our 'govt' was serious about the environment (to me cap and trade is a load of horse manure in the end - you are still polluting the place) - they would have poured a ton of the TARP and stimulus money into mass transit and weaning off Saudi oil. want to save money and really help the earth - do what it takes to finish the 2nd ave subway in less than 100 years (it will NEVER open on time)., make sure every major congested city has electric buses, expand rail service in cities with huge traffic issues like Houston and Phoenix, bullet trains like china

    no, not in this country. too busy being arrogant bastards

  4. I'm so grateful that I have a decent public transportation system to rely upon here in NYC... And grateful that I don't need a car... Neither the expense, nor the carbon footprint...



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