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SG-W:/ Our area flunks transportation study

The press release below summarizing a national study of transportation
choices and air pollution might interest you.  The story is running on
WEMU today.  The full research report is available at:

Doug Cowherd
Co-chair, Sierra Club-Huron Valley Group


Sierra Club Gives Michigan Metro Areas Fs For Efforts to Clear the Air
Study Shows Investing in Public Transportation Clears the Air

LANSING The Sierra Club gave Michigan and the Detroit-Ann Arbor-Flint and
Grand Rapids metro areas an F for their efforts to clear the air with
transit spending.  A Sierra Club report released today found a clear
connection between states' and cities' investments in public
transportation and their success at cutting smog per person from cars and
trucks.  Although most of America's 50 largest cities failed in their
performance at reducing car and truck smog, those that invested in public
transportation suffered from less automobile pollution per person.

"If cities in Michigan invest in public transportation, clean air will
 come," said Anne Woiwode, Director, Sierra Club Mackinac Chapter.
"Nationally, cities that invested more in public transportation reduced
their car and truck smog. Although cars are polluting less per mile, smog
isn't getting better, because suburban sprawl forces Americans to drive
farther just to pick up a gallon of milk or take their kids to soccer. If
we give Americans more transportation choices, we drive less and breathe
cleaner air."  Doug Cowherd, Co-Chair of the Sierra Clubs' Huron Valley
Group added, "Our inadequate public transportation system makes life more
difficult for everyone who lives in Washtenaw County. Traffic congestion
and air pollution will keep getting worse unless we get serious about
making it easier to travel by bus, train, and bicycle."

The report released today is called "Clearing the Air with Transit
Spending: Sierra Club Grades America's Fifty Largest Cities". Both the
Detroit-Ann Arbor-Flint metro area and Grand Rapids received a D- for the
amount of smog from cars and trucks per person and got an F for the amount
spent on public transit versus highways per person. In Detroit-Ann
Arbor-Flint 94 pounds of smog from cars and truck is created per person
per year and 33.3 percent of smog is from cars and trucks.  Grand Rapids
produces 96 pounds of smog from cars and light trucks per person per year
with 27.3 percent coming from cars and trucks.  To address this, in
Michigan only $18.90 is spent per resident on transit for every $100 spent
on highways per person.

"Clearing the Air" gave New York State the highest grade in terms of its
spending on public transit, and found that New York is the only state that
spent more money on providing people with transportation alternatives than
on new roads.  At the same time, New York City had the least amount of
smog per person from cars and trucks.  On the other end of the spectrum,
Oklahoma flunked for having a high amount of smog from cars and trucks per
person and spending a paltry $5.80 on public transit to every $100 it
spends on highway and road construction. Oklahoma completely failed in
terms of spending on transportation choices versus roads.

"When cities build more roads instead of cleaner public transportation, it
becomes obvious why smog and air pollution have gotten worse," Woiwode
continued.  "Our report shows that if you invest in clean transportation
choices, the air gets cleaner."

Cars today typically spew 70% to 90% less pollution per mile than their
counterparts of the 1960s, yet smog is still a serious problem.  One of
the main reasons pollution levels are not decreasing as fast as desired
(or in some cases are actually increasing) is more people are driving
farther.  The average American driver spends 443 hours per year - the
equivalent of 55 eight-hour workdays (more than 10 workweeks)  - behind
the wheel. Residents of sprawling communities drive three to four times as
much as those living in compact, well-planned, walkable areas.

Twenty percent of Americans live in areas where scientists say the air is
not safe to breathe.  Breathing smog has been implicated in a range of
illnesses from asthma to pneumonia. We have long recognized smog as a
public health problem.  Despite that, smog has actually increased in a
number of regions in the last ten years.  In fact, only ten to fourteen of
207 polluted cities (less than five to seven percent) saw a reduction in
their air pollution in the 1990s.

"If we don't invest in public transportation and in sound regional
planning that limits sprawl development, people in our community will pay
the price with increased respiratory problems," said Cowherd.

The Sierra Club recommends that the state and federal government increase
the amount of money set aside for public transit and at least equalize
funding between highways and public transportation. Government should also
plan development wisely to shorten car trips and facilitate public
transportation, and support public involvement in the transportation and
land use planning process. The Sierra Club encourages people to let their
local, state and federal leaders know they want transportation choices for
cleaner air.


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