Watt Watchers of Texas: Texas is Too Good To Waste™

Activity: Graphing Emissions

Grade Level:

Activity Overview: Just as each mode of transportation can carry a different number of passengers, each mode can go a certain distance, and requires different energy from fuel. Whether light rail trains running on electricity or a private car running on unleaded gasoline, each mode of transportation has a different energy use and carbon intensity. 

The purpose of this activity is to represent graphically different quantitative measurements of different modes of transportation. Students can use digital tools, such as a spreadsheet, or analog tools, such as graphing paper, to graph the carbon intensity of different modes of transportation. Feel free to eliminate any of the individual modes of transportation. For example, ferry travel is uncommon in Texas, so one pair of example charts presented below include and exclude this datapoint. The two column graphs below show the data set both including and excluding information regarding the ferry boat.

Mode of TransportationCO₂ in g/pass-mi
Motor Coach56
Van Pool101
Heavy Rail156
Commuter Rail177
Intercity Rail179
Car Pool (2 Persons)185
Light Rail202
Trolley Bus233
Car (Average Trip)235
Domestic Air Travel243
Transit Bus299
Car (1 Person)371
Ferry Boat818

There are four types of charts presented here on this page as a reference. Students' graphs may differ slightly in appearance but should roughly resemble these if they graph the information in the same order. Any major deviations may be improperly graphed. Excellent work will include each of the following qualities. You can turn this activity into a graded exercise by providing this list (plus any additional qualities you want to add) and assessing their finished product. 

  • Title of graph
  • Title of horizontal axis
  • Title of vertical axis
  • Evenly spaced intervals for the dependent variable
  • Accurate data

The source of the data reproduced here in this table is a report compiled by M.J. Bradley & Associates of Manchester, New Hampshire, titled "Comparison of Energy Use & CO₂ Emissions from Different Transportation Modes" (May 2007). For the full definition of the different modes of transportation as well as the rationale behind the data, you can download the full report.


MATH.6.5A, MATH.6.11A, MATH.6.12A

Watt Watchers of Texas is a Partner Program of Smart Energy Education.
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