Earth Week Analysis Shows Rapid’s Buses Contribute More to Pollution than SUVs

In time for Earth Week, an analysis of the The Rapid’s 2009 services determined that the bus system contributed over seven millions pounds of extra carbon dioxide to the environment than would have been produced if all of The Rapid’s bus passengers had been transported in cars. This startling calculation, independently verified, shows that because of the low ridership on Rapid buses, combined with the low gas mileage of the Rapid’s large buses,The Rapid does not in any way reduce pollution.

In fact, the analysis shows that the buses produce even more carbon dioxide than people who use SUVs. The production of carbon dioxide with vehicles is entirely dependent with the amount of fuel consumed. The comparison is made by determining the average amount of fuel used to transport one passenger one mile and then comparing the different modes of transportation.

A senior fellow specializing in transportation policy at the Cato Institute, Randal O’Toole independently verified the calculations made by the Kent County Taxpayers Alliance. KCTA has been the lead opposition group to the upcoming May 3rd 31% bus tax increase. The group has gotten several prominent elected officials to oppose the millage including a Kentwood city commissioner, three county commissioners, and two local state legislators.

KCTA spokesman Eric Larson had this to say about the new findings, “One of the signature missions of a public transit system is to conserve resources and move people around town efficiently and quickly, while reducing pollution. The analysis today simply points out what we have been saying for months now: the buses are not full enough. Not only is it costly but it contributes to pollution and wastes fuel. Clearly, The Rapid fails to deliver these which is why we have been advocating a ‘no’ vote until they begin running the bus system sensibly.”

“Our analysis shows that their van service delivers on that promise to protect the environment,” continued Larson. “It consumes less fuel and moves people around town inexpensively. Unfortunately, the van service is a miniscule portion of The Rapid system. Instead, The Rapid touts its hybrid buses which are still worse than SUVs because their average fuel mileage is only 0.68 mpg better than the conventional buses. As stewards of tax dollars, we can only hope The Rapid takes an inward look at its operations and rethinks the way it operates.”

The Rapid’s buses produced 25,079,872 pounds of carbon dioxide annually which was 40% more than if the people had been transported using passenger cars. Had all of those riders instead used passenger cars or SUVs, they would have produced 17,754,939 and 18,360,146 pounds of carbon dioxide respectively. Part of the explanation for the large discrepancy is the fact that automobiles’ fuel efficiency has improved dramatically over the last forty years while bus efficiency has actually diminished.

To view the full report along with supporting calculations and links to source data, please see the posting at the ITP Watch web site.