Transit as Part of the Equation, Revisited


Alan S. Hoback

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

operations - capacity, land use - planning, mode - mass transit


Transit capacity, Transit, Strategies, Strategic planning, Public transit, Priorities, Objectives, Mass transit, Local transit, Goals, Energy utilization, Energy efficiency, Energy consumption, Best practices


Average energy consumed in travel modes is best for rail, then buses, and then cars. This ranking contradicts a presentation at the 87th Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board, which relied on the "Transportation Energy Data Book." In that presentation, cars were shown to have superior energy use to buses and were near the energy use of rail transit. The presentation suggested that technological advances in car efficiency would make them more efficient than all mass transit. Although both cars and mass transit vehicles will improve in efficiency, it is a flawed argument that use of cars will consume less energy. Focusing only on Btu consumed neglects consideration of the purpose of the trip and the effect of embodied energy, which is the energy used to make vehicles and roadways. Additionally, claiming that cars offer greater potential for energy reduction neglects the great capacity in transit systems to accommodate more riders while using no additional energy. Several strategies can be implemented to improve transit energy consumption besides simply gaining riders. There is a wide variability in energy consumed by transit systems. Best energy practices in transit are highlighted.