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Transit Avoided Carbon

Updated Nov 21, 2019

Every year, the MTA avoids 19 million metric tons of greenhouse gases while emitting only 2 million through its operations. This results in a net 17 million metric ton annual avoidance. We help the 13 million New Yorkers who live in our service area lead carbon-efficient lives. New Yorkers have the lowest carbon footprint per capita among the 50 states. This is the magic of plentiful public transportation: it benefits those who use it and those who don’t.

To understand what makes the MTA an international sustainability leader, you have to understand "Transit Avoided Carbon”, or carbon avoidance. Carbon avoidance is a measure of how much carbon is saved by customers taking public transit who otherwise might have used a car or truck. In 2009, the MTA collaborated with Booz Allen Hamilton on a study to analyze the impact of MTA operations on greenhouse gas emissions. The study found that without the MTA, greenhouse gas emissions in the region would be almost 30% greater. Three factors play significant roles in carbon avoidance:

Land Use

A mass transit system allows higher density communities. Trips in high density areas (for example, a trip to the grocery store) tend to be shorter than similar trips in automobile-dependent areas. Frequently, these trips are short enough to walk. Land use factor is a major contributor to avoided carbon.

Mode Shift

Transportation generates approximately 40 percent of all green house gases in the United States. Most of that comes from single-occupancy vehicles like cars and trucks. Per-passenger mile emissions from single occupancy vehicles are on average five times higher than mass transit.

Congestion Relief

With more people on Transit, fewer people are in vehicles and on the roads. That means those that remain on the roads can travel faster and more efficiently. That reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

Carbon Accounting

The MTA is a founding member of The Climate Registry. By reporting our emissions, we work to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and educate the public in the role that mass transit plays in avoiding carbon emissions.