Last week, a story on American Public Media’s Marketplace pointed out that New York rail and subway repairs following Hurricane Irene have revealed a troublesome relationship between extreme weather and transportation.
Expanding public transportation can, of course, reduce the number of people driving cars, which should lower greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. But extreme weather events, some of which are already increasing due to climate change, take a toll on transportation infrastructure. Unfortunately, the money needed to repair rail lines, roads, and subway tunnels after storms or heatwaves typically cuts right into the budget for expansion.
It’s a bit of a vicious circle, really: these extreme events set back growth of public transportation, at a time when a lot more public transportation could help slow down climate change.
The silver lining, reporter Andrea Bernstein points out, is that doing major repairs presents a great opportunity to make the transportation system more weather-ready and prepared for climate change than it was before.