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Public Transit Takes A Back Seat in the White House

by Joshua Liberles on February 8, 2008

stateUnion Public Transit Takes A Back Seat in the White House
President Bush didn’t score any popularity points with the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) when he issued his State of the Union Address early this month.

APTA president William W. Miller published a press release in response to the Address, criticizing Bush for his failure to include public transportation among his half-baked solutions to a laundry list of problems: a struggling economy, environmental issues, and the nation’s need for energy independence.

From the APTA:

With high gas prices, many Americans are feeling the pinch and using public transportation is one way that they can save money. President Bush talked about a plan to put more money in the average citizen’s pocket. What he failed to mention was that households that use public transportation save more than $6,200 every year, compared to a household with no access to public transportation. This is a significant amount of money and represents more than the average household pays for food each year.

Public transit is feeling the financial pinch, too. Days before addressing the nation, Bush published his proposed budget for the Department of Transportation in which he suggested significant cuts in funding to public transit.

The APTA responded:

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is outraged that the Bush Administration’s budget request for FY 2009 would cut $202.1 million for public transportation and proposes to transfer an estimated $3.2 billion dedicated for public transportation to fund highway projects.

The tens of millions of Americans who depend on public transportation should not be treated as second-class citizens compared to people who choose to drive cars. (My emphasis)

In his speech, Bush drawled on about energy independence, the environment, and the economy, but failed even to mention public transportation as a key part of the solution to each of these pressing issues. The President also failed to recognize that suburban sprawl is largely responsible for many of the country’s woes, from the cost of gas to the high cost of health care for those who lead a sedentary lifestyle, spending hours each day behind the wheel.

The APTA reminded Bush that public transit saves 1.4 billion gallons of gasoline every year—nearly 300,000 gallons per day. That’s the equivalent of 108 million cars filling their tanks. Parking the car and switching to public transit can reduce your daily carbon emissions by 20 pounds, totaling more than 4,800 pounds per year. According to the APTA, using public transit reduces carbon emissions more than weatherizing your home, switching to CFLs, or using energy efficient appliances.

From the APTA:

One of the quickest ways to reduce our country’s dependence on oil is for people to use the public transportation system in their community. If public transportation was expanded so that more Americans could use public transit, this savings would grow and our national goal of realizing energy independence would be closer to being achieved.

Derailing public transit won’t get us any closer to ending sprawl, slowing climate change, or reducing dependence on oil. Instead of putting his money where his mouth is, Bush has opened his mouth—and inserted his cowboy boot.

Photos via flickr by drp and Dan.


Related posts:

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  2. Scaredy-Cat Paranoia Over Public Transit
  3. PIRG Announces Video Contest to Promote Public Transit
  4. House to Vote on Intercity Rail Funding
  5. Gas Prices and Mass Transit Ridership Surge
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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Steve April 29, 2008 at 11:16 am

.. mean someone has to pay for the entire promotion. The careful marketing and branding is connected to the fact that production costs of such a show are offset by product placement (advertising) sales. So, while I see your point, I understand why it happened - and I’m not sure there is a simple solution.


2 Steve April 29, 2008 at 11:18 am

sorry for the double post, but the “Title” section of the comment doesn’t appear. The first line should read:
“The costs of production mean someone has to pay for the entire promotion.”


3 Bill April 29, 2008 at 1:44 pm

HGTV may be the most affluenza-stricken channel on the dial. I’m not surprised in the least that they missed the point with their “green” house. The entire lineup exists to sell yuppies things they don’t need like granite counter tops, stainless-steel appliances, and crown molding.


4 Dan April 29, 2008 at 3:32 pm

So have you investigated this particular golf course personally? The last golf digest magazine dedicated a large portion to the environment and golf courses. I just need to remember if I want an intelligently written article to stay on the ecogeek site and not bother following the link here.


5 Josh April 29, 2008 at 4:58 pm

Wow, Dan, thanks for the insightful comments. If by “personally” you’re asking if I took soil samples - no. Here’s one source among many, from a Clemson study of this and other Carolina-area golf courses: “Complaints of inadequate control or performance failures for some pesticides prompted the need for a survey. Even with environmental concerns, pesticides are considered essential to golf course management and product failures are costly with respect to dollars and customer satisfaction. In recent years, poor performance of some pesticides has been linked to enhanced biodegradation of the specific pesticide by soil microorganisms.”

Here’s another study of just how green Hilton Head’s courses are, among others in the region: “(PW035) Reproductive Effects of Sediments Associated with Coastal Golf Course Development on Estuarine Meiobenthic Copepods.

ABSTRACT- Coastal golf course development is dramatically increasing in the Carolinas and Georgia with 40% of the 380 golf courses in South Carolina located < 2 miles from the coast. Golf course maintenance is chemically intensive, thus surrounding estuarine areas are at risk of receiving pesticide and fertilizer runoff.”

I guess I touched a nerve when I criticized your sport of choice. Hope I’m not muddying the issue here with too many facts. Keep swinging those clubs, Dan


6 Jessica April 29, 2008 at 6:32 pm

I like your similie. Similies rule!


7 Dan April 29, 2008 at 8:02 pm

If you would of stated something to the effect of “research of this course” or “studies related to this course” I wouldn’t of even questioned it. But just to kind of throw that out without any thing to back that up rubbed me wrong.

I agree that most courses do use to much water and to much pesticide. But as the public gets more educated on the effects of poor course management decisions they’ll accept drier crustier course conditions.

I believe that golf courses can make a dramatic positive impact on the environment if managed correctly. Martha’s Vineyard, MA. is an organic golf course. More and more superintendents are using more organic practices. Hopefully in the future these courses can help filter the sludge run-off from city streets before it reaches wetland area, and planting of trees can help reduce the carbon. Some grass hybrids are even salt tolerant enough to allow irrigation with sea water.

What it all comes down to with golf courses is, what are you comparing them to? Green compared to a huge office building…probably. Green compared to corporate farming..possibly. Green compared to untouched land…no.

Where I live, if the course wasn’t here, it would probably have a center pivot in the center of it and be irrigated farm land. Our course is probably greener than the alternative.


8 TheAntiGolf April 29, 2008 at 8:38 pm


For the record, it’s “would have.” The grammar mistakes kind of erode your credibility. OF COURSE golf courses (no pun) are bad for the planet. Most are miles of razed ground that have been seeded with lab-grown grass and toxic chemicals, then trampled by overweight, middle-aged, balding men in white shoes with little, floppy tassels–and don’t even get me started on the golf carts. Isn’t this basic stuff? Then again, you are a golfer. What can I reasonably expect? In my experience, guys who play golf seriously are usually Polo-wearing jerks with huge egos, big paychecks, and tiny…er, clubs. Have fun on the Vineyard, teeing off with Muffy!


9 MarkR April 30, 2008 at 6:14 pm


Man I don’t even have a dog in this fight but I can’t help respond to “TheAntiGolf” childish comments. You see, as a person that suffers from Dyslexia it has been my experience that when people don’t have a valid online point to make, they go for the easy mis-spell or grammar mistake. It is usually because you’ve made an excellent point to which they have no real credible facts or come back to refute your point. So they virtually throw up their hands and run around mumbling idiotic things that have no bearing on the arguement at hand like, “the grammar mistakes kind of erode your credibility.” If you keep score, When they do make this move it means that you’ve gotten under their skin and they are taking it personal and want to hurt you personally but in reality you’ve just won and they don’t know it. I use to let these people make me mad, but thats what these petty little people want. Now I just have pity for them because they don’t realize how childish it makes them look.


10 AndrewAHunt May 5, 2008 at 2:35 pm

This is a vapid post, poorly researched, and below Ecogeek standards.

No, the HGTV “Green Home” is not LEED Platinum. But what IS it?

Josh completely missed the concept of green building when he says “But pushing new products on consumers, whether they’re greener alternatives or not, isn’t going to have a positive impact.”

With over a million new, single-family residential homes built in the US every year (conservative NAHB estimate), how exactly to you purpose to make a significant, and realistic change in our future energy consumption? Homes account for 22% of the total energy used annually (DOE/EERE) and within the home, appliances and electronics make up 20% of that. New products ARE an important part of reducing our domestic carbon footprint.

Consumption for the sake of consumption is a bad thing, we all agree, but promoting new technologies to reduce energy use is part of the process to move us to carbon neutrality.


11 Steve May 7, 2008 at 4:31 pm

I have to agree with Mark R on this one. Even though most golf course managers are, in fact, opting for more green, organic ways to manage their courses, they are still vilified by you and your “green” counterparts, Josh. Dan presented an intelligent rebuttal to your blanket statement on golf courses and the only thing you can do is attack his grammar? Sadly, this seems to be typical of the supposedly “enlightened” crowd; when anyone debates your opinions (rarely do I see true scientific facts presented on these types of websites) those people are called nasty names, insulted, and are the subjects of character assassination. Lay off the insults and name calling. Not everyone who plays golf is, as you say, “overweight, middle-aged, balding men in white shoes with little, floppy tassels” (i.e.-Tiger). Maybe you should stop watching Caddyshack and join the real world…I mean where else would this insultcome from “guys who play golf seriously are usually Polo-wearing jerks with huge egos, big paychecks, and tiny…er, clubs.”?


12 Josh May 7, 2008 at 6:57 pm

Steve, Mark R, Dan, and AntiGolf:

Actually… I answered Dan’s comments with facts derived from research, if you look at the sequence of response-posts here.

I responded to his points, Dan made an intelligent rebuttal based on his experience and knowledge of courses, then AntiGolf went off the deep end.

A good dialog is key, I’m not aiming for propaganda , “blanket statements,” or character assassinations here. Thanks for reading and commenting.


Reply to Steve:

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