transportation Icon

Don't know where to start? Read about all the issues of transportation use here. Links to actions which relate to each issue can be found in orange.


Energy Consumption By Transportation Sector "45% (19.15) gallons of every barrel of oil (42 gallons) is gasoline."
US Department of Energy

The petroleum refined to run the transportation sector is by far the largest single use in each barrel extracted from the earth, accounting for a total of 75% of all crude oil consumption. While transportation isn’t the biggest total energy user in our daily lives, it is the biggest petroleum user. The graphic to the right describes how much of each energy source is dedicated to the transportation sector each year. As you can see, petroleum accounted for 93.7% of the 27.03 quadrillion BTUs consumed by the transportation sector in 2009, using 25.34 quadrillion Btus. Only a small fraction of electricity and natural gas resources are put towards transportation.

While the most obvious petroleum user in transportation is the fuel used to power our vehicles and infrastructure, there is also quite of a bit of energy put into manufacturing, not to mention the direct use of petroleum to create the infrastructure of our roads in the form of asphalt.

The graphic below describes the breakdown of what petroleum is used for: gasoline to run personal automobiles, jet fuel to fuel airplanes, asphalt and road oil for paving and lubricants used as motor oil and greases.

Breakdown of Petroleum Used for Transportation

Despite the benefits of using public transportation, (among them, creating a healthier lifestyle and reducing carbon emissions), the vast majority of Americans drive themselves to work alone.

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), 86% of Americans drive to work (10% carpooling), meaning only 14% use some kind of alternative transport.

Principle Means of Transportation to Work

The largest alternative mode of transportation sector is public transportation (bus, light rail, subway). chosen by 5% of commuters. Closely following are 4.3% of our population who work from home. Only 2.9% of Americans walk to their workplace, leaving only 0.8% to take a motorcycle or bicycle (BTS).

Because commuting is such a high percentage of total transportation each week, four of the actions in this section relate directly to commuting. The other actions focus on ways to change all transportation energy.


UNDERSTANDING ALL TRANSPORTATION ENERGY

All forms of transportation use some type of energy. In cars, it is gasoline, in planes-jet fuel, in trucks-diesel, and when walking or biking we are burning the fuel of our own bodies in the form of calories.

Tracking the energy we use throughout a typical week in different units of measure can give us a new perspective on how much energy goes into different modes of transportation.


COMMUTING

One of the quickest and easiest ways to cut transportation energy is to carpool with at least one other person. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 76.1% of Americans drive themselves to work each day and only 10% carpool. Depending on circumstance, carpooling can be a very simple step which has big impact on transportation energy reductions.


Compared to a single-passenger car which gets 40 mpg, taking the bus reduces transportation energy (passenger miles per gallon) by 80%. It can also be a relaxing and convenient way to commute. In many places, it may even be a faster route, as buses get access to limited-access freeway lanes and eliminate the need to find parking.


Bicycling is the alternative-commuting choice that gets the most attention but transportation data still shows that only 2.5% of Minneapolis residents (and less than 1% of all Americans) regularly commute to work by bike. Even if your commute is a considerable distance away, data from the League of American Bicyclists shows that the majority of trips taken in the United States are local: half of all trips are three miles or less and 40 percent are two miles or less. Nonetheless, currently 90 percent of these short trips are taken by car (League of American Bicyclists). Bicycling can offer a lower-stress way to transport yourself, whether for commuting or running errands, while keeping physically fit as well.


As we are all aware, using more of our own body’s energy is much more desirable than using the energy of fossil fuel resources, which are both very polluting as well as being rapidly depleted.

While walking may not be the ideal solution for every trip, it is an excellent choice for trips of shorter distances. According to the Twin Cities Department of Transportation data, 28.7% of all trips in the metro area are 2 miles or less in length, making walking a good option for at least 30% of transportation.


ACTIONS WHICH FOCUS ON TOTAL TRANSPORTATION ENERGY
(INCLUDING COMMUTING)

Hypermiling is the practice of increasing your car’s gas mileage by making skillful changes in the way you drive. Car maintenance and driving habits have a significant impact on overall fuel efficiency, so making seemingly simple changes such as properly inflating tires, observing the speed limit, and driving more sensibly can add up to markedly increased fuel economy, upwards of 30% in many situations (www.fueleconomy.gov). With driving occupying such a pervasive role in our society, this is no small accomplishment.


Car-sharing is designed to replace car ownership for people who do not need to drive to work every day, and to significantly reduce congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. Car-sharing is a service that provides 24/7 self-serve access to a network of vehicles stationed around your city (and increasingly, cities world-wide), which can be reserved by the hour or day via smart phones, Internet and call centers (carshare.net).


Making the commitment to go car-less (including car shares) can completely change the way you experience transportation. Many people may be concerned that eliminating the use of cars will take away the freedom of mobility that comes with having a car, and would be surprised to find how equally convenient it is to take public transit, bike or walk to the places you are trying to go.


END GOAL ACTION

As with every category, the final action represents an ‘end-goal’ action. This action is often the most difficult, and perhaps conflicts with the infrastructures and our typical lifestyles the most dramatically. With this in mind, the purpose of this action is to experience a purposefully extreme lifestyle change which challenges our social norms for the sake of identifying where the most extreme change needs to occur. In the case of this Transport section, this ‘end-goal’ action asks participants to transport themselves using only their own energy (walking and bicycling) for the duration of the project.


RESOURCES