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On The Right Track

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The Hudson Bergen Light Rail (HBLR) line saved New Jersey and New York commuters more than 3.4 million gallons of gasoline last year—the equivalent fuel consumed by 6,000 cars annually, according to "On The Right Track: Hudson Bergen Light Rail Increases Energy Independence." The report was written by Environment New Jersey Research and Policy Center.

With transportation responsible for more than two-thirds of our nation’s oil consumption and nearly a third of our carbon dioxide emissions, the report says the nation needs to build a transportation system that uses less oil, takes advantage of alternative fuels, and shifts travel to modes that consume less energy.

But energy savings is only part of the benefit of transit, according to the report.

The estimated total cost of the current Hudson Bergen line is $2.2 billion. As of 2008, according to the report, total development spurred by the rail has was valued at more than $5 billion.

This development includes more than 10,000 residential units added since the line opened in 2000. Since the system was conceived in the 1980s, the office space inventory has grown from 1 million square feet to more than $17 million.

The report notes that Hoboken, the West Side and Bayonne are studying the best ways to implement transit-oriented developments. Well-executed TOD could make the Hudson Bergen line even more successful. The report says integrated TOD projects in comparable urban areas have increased transit ridership by 20 to 40 percent.

"Expanding access to transit extends benefits beyond energy savings and reducing pollution. Light rail can be an integral part of comprehensive smart growth strategy to create compact land use patterns, which make destinations more accessible, and provide people with more mobility choices ‐ transit, rail, better biking and walking," the report says.

The release of the report was part of a larger Environment America campaign to build support among key allies in Congress to strenghten cleaner transportation investment in the authorization and related legislation, as well as to bolster the transportation provisions in current climate and clean energy legislation.

The report is available in the Best Practices.

The Right Track: Hudson Bergen Light Rail Increases Energy Independence