Won't the burning of coal to provide electricity to operate the streetcar simply add to our climate problems?
This question was studied extensively by Mayor Mark Mallory’s Climate Change Initiative Task Force. For every ton of CO2 that is produced by burning coal to power the streetcar, two tons of CO2 aren’t produced by autos that would otherwise be carrying streetcar passengers. So in terms of its transportation mission, the streetcar cuts the production of CO2 by half for the people who use it. But the real gains are achieved on account of new settlement patterns that are likely to develop as a result of the streetcar’s presence. It is a known fact that persons living in walkable communities produce much less CO2 due to the construction and operation of their residences, due to their shopping more locally and due to the likelihood of their working nearby. When those assumptions were plugged into the model, the Cincinnati Streetcar reduced CO2 emissions by a factor of ten when compared to the emissions caused by the burning of coal to power it. And in any case, the Cincinnati Streetcar is not a heavy consumer of electric power. The engineers studying the project have calculated that if the Downtown-Uptown leg of the Cincinnati Streetcar were to buy 100% renewable power off the grid (wind power, for example), then that would add about 1.5% to the annual operating costs of the project -- not a significant number.
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