Archive for May 26th, 2007

Bus Plan Backfires

May 26, 2007

bus.jpegThe saying goes, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” In the case of my plan to combat global warming by taking the bus, the saying applies more literally than usual.

I looked into the fuel efficiency of mass transit buses and found some surprising data. According to the U.S. government’s 2005 Transportation Energy Data Book, buses use more energy on average per passenger mile than cars—even more than SUVs! These are actual averages, based on the average car load of 1.57 persons, and the average bus load of 8.7 passengers. If you look at the bus vs. a person driving a car alone, buses are more energy efficient—but not much (only about 34%).

This led me to an interesting paradox: my own efforts to take the bus will make a difference. I can measure my CO2 savings in pounds. However, if everybody took the bus, it wouldn’t help so much. The MBTA would react to increased ridership by adding routes and frequencies until they hit their target average load (whatever that is).

The bright side of the bus, if there is one, is that mass transit does good for society in ways other than reducing carbon emissions: it reduces congestion, and it provides transportation for people who cannot afford cars. However, for the sake of fuel efficiency, I am currently tuning up my bicycle.