A new research analysis released Aug. 29 by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and the Vision Zero Network, a nonprofit campaigning to end vehicle traffic fatalities, suggests cities with higher public transit use can cut their traffic fatality rates by as much as 40 percent.
The analysis, entitled “Public Transit is a Key Strategy in Advancing Vision Zero and Eliminating Traffic Fatalities,” reveals metropolitan areas with high rates of public transportation use see lower traffic fatality rates, APTA explained.
“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.”
Areas with transit use of more than 40 annual transit trips per capita observe up to 40 percent of the traffic fatality rate of metropolitan areas with fewer than 20 transit trips completed per capita.
Cities that move from 20 annual public transit trips to 40 per capita show a small increase in public transit use but can provide large traffic safety benefits, the analysis states. On average, the analysis says a significant difference could be made by passengers taking 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 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.”
Public transit methods that provide longer trips can also help cut down on total vehicle miles traveled, the study notes. Traveling by commuter and intercity rail is 18 times safer for passengers—measuring fatalities—than traveling by car, according to the research.
“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,” APTA said.
Bella Dinh-Zarr, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) board, said while the NTSB investigates transportation disasters of all types, the board confirms that far more Americans die in road traffic incidents than on any other transit mode.
“Public transportation is an important safety tool because it allows high risk drivers, such as those who are drinking or fatigued or distracted, as well as those who are simply inexperienced or unable to drive for health reasons, to be able to get around without endangering themselves and others,” Dinh-Zarr said. “I am pleased to learn about this APTA and Vision Zero Network partnership and report which I hope will help all of us put safety first in our communities and our nation, no matter what form of transportation we choose.”
The most recent data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 37,461 deaths occured in 2016 as a result of automobile traffic crashes, reaching a 5.6 percent increase compared to the previous year. APTA notes that such vehicle traffic deaths cost the U.S. $871 billion annually.
“It is essential our elected leaders on all levels continue to provide strong investments in public transportation because of its extensive traffic safety benefits,” Skoutelas added. “We are partnering with the Vision Zero Network to encourage city leaders, public transit and traffic safety professionals to collaborate and leverage use of their public transit systems to move towards the goal of zero deaths and injuries on our roadways.”
The analysis is based on the methods used in the APTA research publication “The Hidden Traffic Safety Solution: Public Transportation.”