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Passenger rail part of energy picture

Marc Lefkowitz  |  10/18/07 @ 9:53pm

Since 1980, the number of miles Americans drive has risen three times faster than the population and almost twice as fast as vehicle registrations. And it is getting worse: The U.S. Department of Energy projects that between 2005 and 2030, driving will increase 59%, far outpacing an estimated national population growth of 23%.

"We can no longer afford to ignore land use," said Steve Winkelman, director of the Transportation Program at the Center for Clean Air Policy, and co-author of the recent Growing Cooler: Evidence on Urban Development and Climate Change report. "Urban development is both a key contributor to climate change and an essential factor in combating it."

The link between land-use, transportation and energy use in buildings has never been clearer. We simply cannot build enough LEED-certified buildings to make up for the energy America uses in commuting, especially if they're built in areas that require long drives—for an average office building in the United States, calculations done by Environmental Building News (EBN) show that commuting by office workers accounts for 30% more energy than the building itself uses.

As All Aboard Ohio and the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority prepare for their Passenger Rail Leadership Conference this weekend, they’ll hope to build the case for transit as one possible solution to reducing commuter energy use. Recent developments—including a congressional transit appropriations bill—may provide some momentum. Congress approved $900 million for passenger rail projects, which could be tapped to make Cleveland a hub of a Midwest network of fast, convenient, economical passenger rail lines. Also, Lorain County, which is sponsoring the West Shore Corridor alternatives analysis and submitted an application to Congress for $1.5 million for the study (2-28-07), will provide updates on the planning for a Lorain-to-Cleveland commuter rail line which have Cleveland's west side communities thinking about transit-oriented development.

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