Traffic Thicket

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So it stands to reason that if you add more, nicer buses to the mix, better service and the option of a light rail ride for those who don't like buses, some folks will abandon those cars.

How many people will do that?

Peggy Bilsten, Phoenix city councilwoman and chair of the Transit 2000 committee, says the number of yearly transit trips is expected to more than double, from 28 million now to 70 million once the system is in place. (The projections were made by the city transit department, based on riders per available transit mile.)

"Those people will not be on the road. They will not be congesting our freeways. They will not be polluting our air," she says.

Transportation officials estimate that every 28 miles driven by Valley motorists contributes a pound of pollution to our air. And they say motor vehicles are responsible for up to 75 percent of air pollutants. So cutting the number of miles driven by vehicles would undoubtedly reduce pollution. Using transit trip figures provided by the Regional Public Transportation Authority and ridership projections made by city officials, it can be estimated that the improved system could save nearly 7 million tons of pollution from being emitted into the air each year. Now, more than 400 million tons are discharged by vehicles into the air annually, according to RPTA figures.

Bill Pfeifer, head of the Arizona chapter of the American Lung Association, says advances like cleaner-burning fuels and stricter emissions testing have helped reduce pollution over the years.

"But it's not enough. We are at a level of combating air pollution in the Valley that is going to require us to implement virtually every type of control measure that we possibly can. And there is very little that's left on the table that we cannot try to implement. And mass transit has just got to be one of them."

Contact Laura Laughlin at her online address: [email protected]

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Laura Laughlin
Contact: Laura Laughlin