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Cities with Higher Public Transit Use Have Lower Traffic Fatalities

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Metropolitan areas with higher public transportation use – among modes such as heavy rail, light rail, frequent bus service and commuter rail – can cut their traffic fatality rate up to 40 percent, according to an analysis released today by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and the Vision Zero Network.

The analysis, Public Transit is a Key Strategy in Advancing Vision Zero and Eliminating Traffic Fatalities, shows that metro areas with higher public transportation use have lower traffic fatality rates.  Specifically, metro areas with frequent public transit use of more than 40 annual transit trips per capita, have up to 40 percent of the traffic fatality rate of metro areas with fewer than 20 transit trips per capita.

“One of the most powerful traffic safety tools a city can employ to eliminate deaths and injuries due to road traffic crashes is its public transportation system,” said APTA President and CEO Paul P. Skoutelas.  “It takes just a modest increase in public transit use to result in a dramatic decrease in traffic fatalities.”

Metro areas that move from 20 annual public transit trips to 40 per capita represent a modest increase in public transit mode share but can provide disproportionally larger traffic safety benefits, according to the analysis.  On average, this increase would translate to people taking just two additional public transit trips per month.

“Every day 100 people die due to traffic crashes on America’s roads, and increasingly communities are committing to Vision Zero because they believe that everyone deserves to be safe on our streets,” said Leah Shahum, Founder and Director of the Vision Zero Network.  “Investing in strong public transit systems helps communities improve safety for everyone on the roads.  For too long, we have undervalued the significant safety benefits of robust public transit networks, so we look forward to stepping up cooperation to grow public transit and safety together.”

The analysis of this most recent data shows that for individuals public transportation continues to be one of the safest ways to travel. It is ten times safer per mile than traveling by car.

Public transportation modes that serve longer trips can help reduce total vehicle miles traveled and provide safety benefits to users, according to the study.  For instance, traveling by commuter and intercity rail is 18 times safer for passengers (measuring fatalities) than traveling by auto.  Public transit benefits even people who do not use it and are otherwise safe drivers because it helps reduce the risk of being the victim of other drivers’ mistakes, according to the analysis.

The study highlights that a robust public transit system creates these life-saving benefits because it provides for a greater mode shift from the auto to safer travel on public transit; an alternative for high-risk and vulnerable road users; and compact development which provides for lower and safer traffic speeds.

The latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that there were 37,461 deaths due to automobile traffic crashes in 2016.  This is a 5.6 percent increase from the previous year.  In addition, these auto traffic deaths cost the nation $871 billion per year.

“It is essential our elected leaders on all levels continue to provide strong investments in public transportation because of its extensive traffic safety benefits,” said Skoutelas.  “We are partnering with the Vision Zero Network to encourage city leaders, public transit and traffic safety professionals to collaborate and leverage the use of their public transit systems to move towards the goal of zero deaths and injuries on our roadways.”

This analysis is based on the methods used in the APTA research publication The Hidden Traffic Safety Solution: Public Transportation. APTA is pleased to partner with the Vision Zero Network to share promising strategies for greater coordination and cooperation between public transit professionals, Vision Zero proponents, and others interested in safe mobility for all.

For more information, go to www.apta.com/safety.

Written by The Rapid

The Rapid (Interurban Transit Partnership) is the authority that provides a variety of public transportation services for the Grand Rapids metro area and beyond. It is organized and operates under Michigan Public Act 196 of 1986.