New York is only US state to spend more on public transport than on new roads

A new survey has revealed a strong link between the amount of money spent on road construction versus money spent on public transport, and levels of smog in US cities, with New York being the only major city in the survey to spend more on public transport.

The report, Clearing the Air with Transit Spending: Sierra Club Grades America’s Fifty Largest Cities, by the veteran US NGO the Sierra Club, has revealed that although most of the US’s 50 largest cities have not performed well in reducing smog from cars and trucks, those that invested in public transport suffered from less vehicle pollution.

New York State received the highest grade in the survey, being the only state that spent more money on providing public transport alternatives than on new roads. At the same time, the good work in the state has been rewarded with the least amount of smog per person from cars and trucks.

At the other end of the spectrum, Oklahoma has been burdened with the highest amount of smog per person, whilst the city spends only $5.80 on public transport for every $100 spent on road construction.

“If cities invest in public transportation, clean air will come,” said Executive Director of the Sierra Club Carl Pope. “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 further 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.” Although cars typically produce 70-90% less pollution than their counterparts did in the 1960s, one of the main reasons for the country’s smog burden is the increasing distance that people drive, with the average US driver spending 443 hours per year behind the wheel, he says.

The situation is now so bad in the country that 20% of Americans live in areas where scientists say the air is not safe to breathe, says the Sierra Club, with smog actually increasing in a number of regions in the last ten years.

“When cities build more roads instead of cleaner public transportation, it becomes obvious why smog and air pollution have gotten worse,” said Pope. “Our report shows that if you invest in clean transportation choices, the air really does get cleaner.”

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