New study shows cities with higher transit use can cut road deaths by up to 40%

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According to a new study released by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and the Vision Zero Network, metropolitan areas with higher public transportation usage can cut their traffic fatality rates by up to 40%.

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% of the traffic fatality rate of metro areas with fewer than 20 transit trips per capita.

The research covered public transport modes such as bus and rail services and showed that 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. On average, this increase would translate to people taking just two additional public transit trips per month.

The analysis of the most recent data shows that for individuals, public transportation continues to be one of the safest ways to travel, as it is 10 times safer per mile than traveling by car. Public transportation modes that serve longer trips can help reduce total vehicle miles traveled (VMT) 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 automobile. The study shows public transit even benefits those who do not use it and are otherwise safe drivers, because it helps reduce the risk of being the victim of other drivers’ mistakes. The report highlights that a robust public transit system creates these life-saving benefits because it provides for a greater mode shift from the automobile to safer travel on public transit; an alternative for high-risk and vulnerable road users; and compact development that provides for lower and safer traffic speeds.

“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’s 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. It is essential our elected leaders on all levels continue to provide strong investments in public transportation because of its extensive traffic safety benefits. 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 toward the goal of zero deaths and injuries on our roadways.”

Leah Shahum, founder and director of the Vision Zero Network, added, “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. 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.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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