Taking the car out of carbon
If mass transit can get credit for the greenhouse gas emissions it saves, it could revolutionize the way we fund public transportation, according to the sustainability chief for the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, who visited to Portland State on Thursday.
“This is a value we create that nobody gives us credit for,” said Projjal Dutta, who gave a special seminar with the Center for Transportation Studies.
Dutta works to reduce the Transit Authority’s environmental footprint and quantify carbon benefits that accrue to the region from transit. This unrecognized service, if priced, can generate substantial resources for public transportation.
Dutta has calculated that for every unit of greenhouse gas that New York mass transit emits, it saves more than eight units. There are other benefits that can be quantified—road space saved, traffic avoided, and reduced obesity rates.
“Public transportation should be all over this. But we’re not able to quantify it and so we’re not available to sell it.”
The model can work in New York, because it is so dense.
“Does density beget transit or transit beget density?” he asked. If the latter, then the model he proposed can work anywhere. Portland may be the best demonstration of this. Over the past several decades, development in downtown Portland has coalesced around bus and rail routes.
Dutta believes that if we can quantify these benefits, then we can sell them to benefit mass transit’s bottom line. If achieved, the result could be the same or better bus and rail services with lower fares in our cities.