Dump the Pump Day: What Do Transit and Clean Energy Have in Common?

Dump the pumpThe clean energy economy is shaking up the system - 74 percent of all new power generation in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2014 came from solar, and public transit ridership continues to soar.

Hearing about solar and transit in the same sentence may be unusual, but in fact, they're part of the same story. Both solar energy and public transportation are key parts of the clean energy economy that’s moving the country beyond fossil fuels at the same time it is creating good, green jobs.

Transit saves America 4.2 billion gallons of gas and 37 million metric tons of carbon pollution each year while creating jobs for transit workers and operators along with the people who build, fix, and maintain our transit systems - not to mention transit as an economic catalyst in and of itself. Case in point? All the people that transit brings to and from work every single day.

Demand for transit is here and it’s not going away. In fact, transit use has been on the rise, with 10.7 billion trips via transit in 2013. That’s the highest number of transit trips taken in the country in 57 years. Another way to look at this is that in the past 20 years, transit ridership has risen more than 37 percent, both outstripping population growth and the rise in number of miles people are driving.

As good as this is, we also know that there’s room to do much better. Just like with the solar industry’s impressive growth and even more impressive goals, that doesn’t mean it’s time to rest on the laurels.

Too many communities across the country still do not have access to convenient, reliable, affordable public transportation. And as a result, we’re missing opportunities to move beyond oil while building the clean and just economy that this country deserves.

Recently, the Sierra Club joined with our friends in the Jobs to Move America coalition to make sure that our current investments in public transit are maximizing opportunities to build the clean economy here at home.

From the coalition:

"Jobs to Move America is a national project dedicated to ensuring that the billions of public dollars spent on public transit systems create better results for our communities: good jobs, cleaner equipment and more opportunity for low income people."

And today, the Sierra Club is joining with the American Public Transportation Association to celebrate the 9th annual Dump the Pump Day to celebrate transit and its role in moving the country beyond oil. Transit agencies across the country are hosting events to promote transit and to highlight its benefits, and we’re proud to partner with them.

In an ideal world, the country would just do the things that make sense. Transit is better for the climate and air quality, it saves people money, it provides a vital link to the community for residents, it reduces congestion, it creates jobs, transit riders can text all they want when riding the bus or train without endangering their communities...and so much more!

Unfortunately, though, there are a lot of entrenched interests and outdated laws around public funding for transportation that make doing the smart thing a challenge. So that’s why we have events like Dump the Pump Day, to help create more space for conversation around doing what’s right.

Because really, America, there’s a better way. It's time to invest in transit, invest in our communities, and dump the pump.

-- Rachel Rye Butler, Sierra Club Beyond Oil Campaign