Recently I tracked down an article on the annual electricity use of the New York City subway system: 1.8 billion kilowatt-hours (kwh). To put that in perspective, the entire U.S. economy uses about 4,000 billion kwh annually. According to the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority, there were 1.499 billion trips made on the subway in 2006. So it takes a little over 1 kwh to move one person on trips, of varying length, in New York City.
That’s 4.1 million riders per day, on average. So if 200 million trips a day are required in the U.S. for everybody, and if everybody rode a subway, we would need about 90 billion kwh for personal transportation — about 2 percent of our current electricity use.
For comparison, let’s use Gar Lipow’s estimation that a super-duper plug-in hybrid would travel 65 miles using 8 kwh. If the average trip was 8 miles, we would also have 1 kwh per trip. Something to strive for?