With the auto industry in the toilet and the perpetually cash-burning airline industry stinking as usual, at least one element of transportation is booming: public transportation.

Record summer gas prices helped contribute to a 4% rise in public transportation in 2008. When gas prices came back down, that growth slowed to 1.68% in the fourth quarter, according to the American Public Transportation Association. For the year, highway traffic fell 3.6%, according to the Transportation Department.

Increased public transportation use is fantastic news: It's green-friendly, reduces traffic congestion, and saves people money -- and the more people use it, the less it will cost.

This is yet another example of some of the positive effects of the downturn for the auto industry. As people hold off on car-buying, there are more jobs for bus drivers -- just like the positive effect that people driving cars longer have on the automotive mechanic's business.

We should keep in mind that stimulating new car buying is bad for the environment and the public transportation industry.
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