Earth Day 2012 Update: The Rapid’s Pollution Record Got Worse

Last year we definitively showed, using The Rapid’s own data, that The Rapid’s buses actually add pollution to the environment, contrary to the statements that The Rapid’s staff makes about the bus system being “green.” In the last year, the data The Rapid reports to the federal government has been updated. How much better is The Rapid doing?

It’s actually doing worse. In 2010 (the latest year for which the data is available), The Rapid used 1,123,100 gallons of diesel fuel and 11,300 gallons of regular fuel to provide 32,481,817 passenger miles of bus service. The Rapid’s vehicles traveled 4,647,290 miles to provide this service. Using these numbers, we can come to several conclusions:

  1. The Rapid’s buses get, on average, about 4.10 miles to the gallon. In the previous year, this was about 4.17 miles per gallon. The Rapid’s buses are getting less fuel efficient.
  2. The Rapid emitted 0.774 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) per passenger mile. In the previous year, this was 0.762 pounds of CO2 per passenger mile.

In other words, The Rapid’s pollution record is getting worse. The average SUV emits 0.66 pounds of CO2 per passenger mile and the average car emits 0.56 pounds of CO2 per passenger mile.

This doesn’t sound like a big difference, but when added up, this means that The Rapid emitted 25,423,731 pounds of CO2 that year to provide its service. If all of those passengers had been transported in SUVs, then 21,437,999 pounds of CO2 would have been emitted. This means that The Rapid’s buses actually added 3,985,732 pounds (that’s nearly four million pounds) of CO2 to the environment. If every bus passenger had been transported in a car, over seven million pounds of carbon dioxide pollution would have been reduced.

How can this be? We’ve demonstrated (again using The Rapid’s own data) that The Rapid’s buses operate, on average, 89% empty. Because of this drastic under-utilization of its buses, The Rapid wastes a whole lot of fuel driving around very large, mostly-empty buses.



It’s important that we demonstrate exactly how we get our numbers, because we want to be as accurate as possible. In fact, we only use data that The Rapid itself publishes or reports to the federal government. We’ve proven multiple times that it is The Rapid that makes things up and misinforms the public. See here, here, here, and here.

To understand how much pollution The Rapid is producing, you just need to look at the National Transit Database, published by the Federal Government. The latest year’s worth of data from The Rapid can be found here. Go ahead an open up the document labeled Table 17 to see how much fuel The Rapid used. Scroll down to line 870 (labeled “MB” in column “E”). This tells you how many gallons of fuel The Rapid used to provide its bus service. Column “H” shows us 1.123 million gallons of diesel and column “I” shows us 11,300 gallons of regular fuel.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the average gallon of regular fuel emits 8,887 grams of CO2 (19.59 pounds) and the average gallon of diesel fuel emits 10,180 grams (22.44 pounds) of CO2. Therefore, 1,123,100 x 22.44 = 25,202,364 pounds of CO2 and 11,300 x 19.59 = 221,367 pounds of CO2 for a total of 25,423,731 pounds of CO2.

To compare The Rapid’s fuel efficiency and pollution, we look to the Transportation Energy Data Book, published by the U.S. Department of Energy. View Tables 4.1 and 4.2 to get the average miles per gallon of cars and light trucks/SUVs. The average car gets 22.5 miles per gallon and the average SUV gets 18 miles per gallon. (These tables include all cars in use, not just newer models, for a more accurate comparison.) Then locate Figure 8.1 to see the average occupancy of cars and SUVs. The average car has 1.55 people in it and the average SUV has 1.9 people in it. To make a direct comparison, we need to understand how many passenger miles per gallon are provided by cars and SUVs. So we take MPG and multiply it by average occupancy. For cars, it’s 22.5 x 1.55 = 34.88. For SUVs it’s 18 x 1.9 = 34.2. Since the average gallon of diesel fuel emits 22.44 pounds of CO2, this means that the average SUV passenger is responsible for 0.66 pounds of CO2 per mile traveled. For cars, the average passenger is responsible for 0.56 pounds of CO2.

To see how many passenger miles The Rapid provided to its passengers, please view the “Bus” line on system’s 2010 summary sheet from the National Transit Database.

Therefore, since The Rapid provided 32,481,817 passenger miles of service, we can calculate how much CO2 would have been emitted if all of those passengers had been transported in cars or SUVs. 32,481,817 x 0.66 = 21,437,999 pounds of CO2 for SUVs and 32,481,817 x 0.56 = 18,189,817 pounds of CO2 for cars. The Rapid actually emitted 25,423,731 pounds of CO2.

Not so green!