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Posts tagged with air quality

On this Valentine's Day, and every day, our hearts beat true for less traffic and cleaner air.  So, pucker up and embrace the clean commuting love in this latest edition of Merging Lanes.

Romantic Routes: Georgia Ranks High on Roads with Amorous Names

Who knew?  Just in time for Valentine’s Day, an entertaining report from a maker of GPS devices reveals that some of the most “romantic” roads in the U.S. are found right here in the Peach State.  Georgia boasts 70 miles of roads with amorous names that include phrases like “Darling” or “Rose” or “Heart” in them.  Perhaps just the inspiration you need to fall in love with a commute alternative, like this cute couple.

Lane ends 2,000 feet.

Thinking Big for Cleaner Air: Article Suggests Smog Solutions

Great article from National Geographic that describes the causes of air pollution and offers a handful of “big picture” ideas to tackle the problem.  While the intro concentrates on the state of the air in Los Angeles, there are many parallels to the challenges we’re facing in Georgia, from population growth to increasing pressure on the existing transportation network.  Among the many spot-on suggestions?  Increasing public awareness when air quality is unhealthy.  The Clean Air Campaign has you covered with Smog Alerts.  More than 12,000 Georgians are signed up to receive them.  Are you?

Lane ends 1,000 feet.

Purchasing Power of a Penny: ATL Transportation Referendum Projections Spell Out Potential Benefits

The Atlanta Regional Commission recently released a raft of projections about the economic and quality of life benefits that the 150+ projects on the docket for Atlanta could yield.  Among the notable forecasts: the total $8 billion list could yield a 4:1 return on investment, and the environmental benefits derived from less vehicle idling in traffic could yield air quality improvements roughly equal to 72,000 fewer tailpipes on the road.  Still puzzling through the data, but it's clear this information will shape the way in which this referendum is presented to voters.

Lane ends 500 feet.

New Twist on Traffic Fate: Psychic Predicts Your Commute

Stalled out vehicle on the Downtown Connector.  Heavy volume at I-575.  Sunshine slowdown on I-20.  Sometimes, our collective rush hour commuting fate can feel like a roll of the dice.  And more commuters are embracing tools like 511 and Georgia NaviGAtor to help dodge traffic.  But ABC news recently reported on a more … um, celestial … method some folks are using to predict the outcome of their commute.  With tarot cards at the ready, could the traffic psychic have answers about your next trip?


The Clean Air Campaign recently released its inaugural list of Platinum Partners, recognizing employers and property managers whose employees and tenants use alternatives to driving alone for at least 20 percent of their commute trips. The initial list consists of 130 metro Atlanta and Georgia employers and property managers, including IBM. The Clean Air Campaign salutes IBM and all of the Platinum Partners achieving success in reducing traffic congestion and improving the quality of the air we breathe. When it comes to less traffic and cleaner air, these organizations are “In Good Company”. To view the complete list, click here.

Carol Warrick (L) receives a Platinum Partnership certificate from The Clean Air Campaign’s Raina Sayer (R), recognizing IBM’s successful commute options program that has kept 776 tons of pollution out of the air since 2002.

National Weatherperson's Day, also known as National Weatherman's Day, is a holiday observed on February 5 primarily in the United States. It recognizes individuals in the fields of meteorology, weather forecasting and broadcast meteorology - including the folks who watch over the quality of the air we breathe - as well as volunteer storm spotters and observers. National Weatherperson's Day is observed on the birthday of John Jeffries, one of the United States' first weather observers who took daily measurements from 1774 to 1816.

At the age of four, I made the decision to become a meteorologist and I have not looked back since. Growing up and seeing our local meteorologist cover severe weather on television was something that just fascinated me.  Still does.  Not only did I enjoy hearing about weather changes and formations, I also enjoyed seeing how meteorologists prepared people for harsh weather.  Now that I am a meteorologist, I take great pride in being able to do the same.

Although I have looked up to many meteorologists over the years, I would say that my biggest role model was James Spann, the chief meteorologist at the ABC affiliate (ABC 33/40) in Birmingham.  He always seemed to pave the way for new technology in the industry.  Plus, he was a unique storyteller and passionate about his job. Witnessing his balance between community involvement, school visits and severe weather coverage provided me with a great model for my own career.

Being a meteorologist provides me quite a few perks, however the biggest perk is being able to go to work each day and not feel like I’m at work.  I’m doing something that I enjoy and have been passionate about for years.  Over the course of my seven year career, I would say that my most memorable experience was my first day on air when I was a senior in college working at the ABC affiliate (WTOK) in Meridian, Mississippi.  Hurricane Ivan made landfall, and our weather team was involved in continuous coverage of the storm for over 12 hours.  It was quite a way to break into the business!

Since that time, I’ve seen firsthand the devastation that severe weather events can place on communities.  Unfortunately, we can only do so much on TV when we cover these situations, so we encourage individuals to take it upon themselves to stay informed, and we strive to ensure that the public is weather-aware.

Our weather team informs our audience on air quality issues by displaying the air quality index when we foresee bad air days.  This allows residents to take action to improve the air and protect themselves.  In Columbus, we deal with air quality issues occasionally, especially during the summer months.  It’s important for us to let people know about air quality concerns outside of our area since many of our residents travel to cities like Birmingham and Atlanta, which often see worse conditions than we do.

Aside from weather-related events, it’s nice to be able promote positive things like school contests, such as The Clean Air Campaign’s Young Lungs at Work Art Competition, which helps educate kids about pollution and how it affects the air we breathe.  By spreading the word in our local community, we can help people understand the importance of turning off engines to idling cars and school buses in pick-up lanes at school.

I'm happy to say that for the first time in awhile I won’t be at work on Weatherperson’s Day this Sunday, so I’ll likely celebrate it by enjoying a day off and watching the Super Bowl. Happy Weatherperson’s Day to all my peers!

Derek Kinkade is the chief meteorologist for 9 ABC/WTVM in Columbus.

National Weatherperson's Day, also known as National Weatherman's Day, is a holiday observed on February 5 primarily in the United States. It recognizes individuals in the fields of meteorology, weather forecasting and broadcast meteorology - including the folks who watch over the quality of the air we breathe - as well as volunteer storm spotters and observers. National Weatherperson's Day is observed on the birthday of John Jeffries, one of the United States' first weather observers who took daily measurements from 1774 to 1816.

My fascination, passion, excitement (and possible obsession) with all things weather began when I was in my mother’s womb. Since I was a youngster, I remember loving the smell of rain, gazing at the different sizes and shapes of clouds and touching and tasting white snow…okay, maybe I am obsessed.  However, I am truly blessed to have been able to turn this lifelong passion into a rewarding career as a meteorologist.

It’s often said that people are most fearful of what they don’t understand.  There was a time in my life when the deep growls of thunder and the sound of a tornado siren would send chills up my spine. But as I grew older, fueled by my passion and curiosity, I delved deeper and deeper into understanding the physical processes of our atmosphere. Though we have a good handle on the principles and properties of our atmosphere, there is still plenty of room for growth and further research to figure out exactly how different elements of our environment marry to create the weather we experience.

Being a meteorologist on television comes with a hefty responsibility. People look to meteorologists for a variety of things, from insight into significant earth science events to accurate forecasting on the day of a big outdoor weekend to, most importantly, guidance during severe weather.

My primary responsibility as a meteorologist on television is to protect the lives and property of my viewers. Before you head out the door and hit the roads, you need to know what kind of weather to expect so you are ready for your commute to and from work. It’s my goal to help you plan and prepare for your day.

Part of that includes distributing Smog Alerts when air quality reaches hazardous levels for groups of people. Thankfully that does not happen too often in my part of the state, and I support our friends at The Clean Air Campaign to keep it that way. They do a great job promoting the use of commute alternatives throughout Georgia so you can enjoy cleaner air and less traffic.

The field of meteorology is continuously evolving. Though I suppose the average person thinks of a meteorologist as the guy on the local news, there are actually many opportunities in weather forecasting outside of television, including both the private and government sectors.

If weather is your passion, pursue it!  The sky is the limit!

Michael Estime is the chief meteorologist for 41 NBC / WMGT-TV in Macon, Ga.

Today marks the kickoff of The Clean Air Campaign’s first ever Clean Commute Week. The idea for Clean Commute Week came from a group a parents from Evansdale Elementary’s PTA Green Team, who introduced the idea last year during International Walk to School Day. The successful initiative earned the school the Marlin Gottschalk Environmental Leadership Award at The Clean Air Campaign’s recent PACE Awards ceremony in August.

As Evansdale Elementary celebrated International Walk to School day last fall, we noticed some sad faces from children who had taken the bus. Walking and biking is great and means cleaner air and healthy exercise, but for children who cannot walk or bike, riding the bus is a safe and green way to come to school. 

As a magnet school, Evansdale has many children who live far away from school and can’t walk, and who cannot feasibly ride a bus. For them, the cleanest possible commute is to share a ride with other families. So last spring we decided to turn Georgia Walk to School Day into Evansdale Elementary’s Clean Commute Week, honoring all the different ways that children can come to school that are good for the environment.  Our goal was to encourage and celebrate sustainable habits that are feasible and easy for families to adopt. We created a “Clean Commute Log” and asked students to document their commute to and from school each day for a week. To our delight, the students and their parents responded enthusiastically to this idea.  We held mini celebrations with prizes from The Clean Air Campaign for “Take the Bus Tuesday”, “Walking Wednesday” and “Ride together Friday”.  In addition, we had students add their name to a paper cut-out of a foot, bus or car to represent their type of commute. We then added the cut-outs to a large display in the foyer of the school.  Luckily we had cut out enough footprints, school buses, and carpool cars to represent each clean commuting student – the challenge was fitting them all on the display space!

If good habits can be formed when young, they may become lifelong habits.  And children – once their awareness has been raised – can become great advocates for environmental behaviors. So it seemed a good idea to encourage Evansdale Elementary students to clean commute – it would mean healthy exercise for those who walked or rode bikes and cleaner air for everyone if students carpooled or rode school buses instead of coming in many individual cars.  And if they did it during Clean Commute Week, maybe they’d form the habit and do it often. That was our hope.

This year at Evansdale we are celebrating clean commutes every Wednesday. Each student who walks, rides a bike or bus or carpools with another family receives a stamp and is entered into a monthly drawing to receive a prize and “Clean Commuter of the Month” certificate.  The students are enthusiastically participating and are proud to be a part of making our community a better place. 

Angie Claussen, Monica Castro, and Susanna Binzen are the 2010-11 PTA Green Team Chairs at Evansdale Elementary in DeKalb County.

I have a confession: I never thought that I would like teleworking. I am one of those people who likes in-person interaction with my co-workers. But as the employee transportation coordinator at my office, I’ve tried to utilize the commute alternatives that I encourage everyone else to use. I carpooled for a while, but once I had children the carpool fell apart and I shifted back to my ride alone commute. The guilt set in. To offset the impacts of all those single occupancy vehicle trips, three years ago I decided to start teleworking two days a week. Wow! I was amazed at how much I enjoyed it.

My mornings are so much less stressful with not having to check traffic conditions before I head out the door. On my telework days, I get the kids off to school and my workday starts about an hour and half earlier than on my days in the office. I’m less rushed, with no clothes to iron and only a 20-foot commute from the kitchen. I can work uninterrupted, and I am more productive on those days. Phone messages are delivered to my e-mail inbox, and instant messaging and video conferencing take the place of the in-person interactions. I still feel just as connected and responsive as when I was in the office full-time. I can also still work if we have extreme weather conditions like our occasional snow day (or snow week) that we see in Atlanta. 
My wallet and the environment have also benefitted from my teleworking. With gasoline around $3.50 a gallon, even my two days of teleworking a week has shifted my once weekly fill-up to almost once every two weeks. I know that my telecommute is helping to reduce the impact on our air quality and our environment and am proud to work for CH2M HILL, a company that strongly promotes full-time and part-time telworking as a method to reduce its environmental impact.

Last year teleworkers at CH2M HILL avoided 1,377 tons of CO2 emissions by eliminating their daily commute. Teleworking has worked out great for my family too. It allows me to be flexible to attend events at my children’s schools during the day and still make planned meetings and conference calls for work. No more rushing out of work early to make it to an afterschool event. I can still work a full day and make it to the children’s afterschool club meetings and lessons.

Melanie Wiggins is a biologist based out of CH2M HILL’s Atlanta office, where she has been the employee transportation coordinator for 10 years. She has been with CH2M HILL for 15 years. In that time, she’s gotten to work by single occupancy vehicle, carpool, train, and teleworked. She’s even had some boat rides to work when doing biology field work. Yes, they were great commutes! 

During Georgia Telework Week, watch this space for other guest blog posts from Clean Air Campaign employer partners and commuters who appreciate that sometimes the best commute is the one we don't have to make.

Here in Atlanta, 1.6 million people commute to work every day, and nearly 50 percent of those folks have commutes that take more than 30 minutes.

At Georgia Power and Southern Company, we have a program called SmartRide that promotes alternative commuting options and flexible work schedules. It's a great way for our employees to cut their driving expenses and time spent in traffic while improving the quality of our environment.

Georgia Telework Week is this week (Sept. 12-16), and telecommuting is one of the key aspects of our SmartRide program. Altogether, we have more than 800 employees who telework in one form or another. Some do it full-time, others do it part-time, and we have employees whose jobs are more suited for teleworking occasionally. It's a decision that involves each employee and his or her manager or supervisor.

In addition to telecommuting, SmartRide encourages employees to use alternative transportation. The company provides subsidies for employees who carpool, vanpool or use public transportation. Not only that:

  • We provide a corporate shuttle between our two downtown Atlanta locations and the closest transit station. The shuttle runs continuously every workday between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m.
  • We make fuel-efficient loaner vehicles available for SmartRiders to use during the day for business and personal reasons.
  • We provide employees a guaranteed ride home in emergency or unscheduled overtime situations.

Our SmartRide program also asks employees to consider whether a compressed schedule might work for them (for example, working four 10-hour days each week) or whether they can stagger their work hours so they're not commuting downtown during peak times.

The driving force behind SmartRide is improving the quality of the air we breathe. That’s why our company has joined many others around Atlanta in support of The Clean Air Campaign. We’re encouraging employee participation in SmartRide, we're tightening power plant emissions, and we’re increasing our fleet of alternative-fuel vehicles.

Already, our employees in the SmartRide program avoid driving 1.3 million miles each month, which equates to more than 62 tons of emissions not being released into the atmosphere every year.

I could go on and on about the environmental benefits of SmartRide. But think about how it would be less stressful to eliminate all, most or some of the time you spend behind the wheel.

Think about how much money you could save on gas and wear and tear on your car if you weren't always driving solo to work.

Think about how productive you could be working from home and how much easier it would be to balance your work and personal time if you could negotiate a telework schedule with your supervisor.

We think SmartRide is a pretty smart choice.

Kirby Stough is manager of facilities planning and projects at Georgia Power.

During Georgia Telework Week, watch this space for other guest blog posts from Clean Air Campaign employer partners and commuters who appreciate that sometimes the best commute is the one we don't have to make.

Some of the best work being done anywhere for less traffic and cleaner air is happening right here in Georgia.  That was the message at the PACE Awards, which drew more than 200 guests to celebrate the good news about transportation and air quality.

The ceremony, held this morning at the Georgia-Pacific building in downtown Atlanta, recognized a total of 15 employers, property managers, individuals and schools for their work on programs that encourage the use of commute options and yield demonstrable results.  Get more details on winners and finalists here.

It’s hard to believe that 15 years have passed since the 1996 Olympic Games.  This two-week event fostered unprecedented growth in the region and recognition for years after the closing ceremonies, truly solidifying Atlanta as an international city.

As we commemorate the 15th anniversary of Atlanta's Olympics, it's understandable if many Georgians who were part of the experience are feeling a bit nostalgic.  Some of us may even be tempted to dust off our Izzy memorabilia.  But those involved with The Clean Air Campaign are excited to celebrate the occasion for a different reason: the Olympic experience shaped our mission for less traffic and cleaner air, providing a glimpse into what was possible.

As the 1996 Olympics approached, senior business and political leaders agreed that traffic congestion and poor air quality could have an adverse impact on the success of the Games.  Atlanta had cultivated an image as the City that would carry off the biggest, most successful Games in history. This required not merely facilitating the 10,000 athletes involved, 15,000 members of the international press and more than 2 million spectators on hand, but also ensuring that gridlock and poor air quality issues did not upstage the Games. All agreed this would require significant efforts to reduce normal traffic congestion in the region.  For their part, the business community agreed to take steps to encourage employees to significantly reduce commuting trips during the period of the Games. In preparation for this effort, The Clean Air Campaign was officially launched in the late-spring of 1996.

The arrival of the "Games of the 100th Olympiad" brought unparalleled excitement for many, but employers and commuters were concerned about the impact of millions of visitors on Atlanta's transportation network.  How would the business community be able to conduct business as usual during the Olympics if employees couldn't get downtown?  And so, a business strategy came into focus, albeit years ahead of its time.  Allowing employees to work from home or from remote locations (telework) would help keep them out of traffic and be productive.  Ask anyone who traveled the roads at rush hour during this time and they'll tell you it was surprisingly empty. A vision for less traffic was achieved in part through the proactive, business-driven decisions of Atlanta employers.

At this same time, Atlanta's environmental and health communities observed a remarkable trend.  Air quality in the region actually improved during the Olympics.  No Code Red or Code Orange exceedences for ground-level ozone or particle pollution were observed.  A study even found area visits to emergency rooms for respiratory illness declined 40% during this timeframe.  With half of all smog-forming emissions in the region coming from tailpipes, this unexpected and positive news on air quality validated the notion that voluntary actions could move the needle toward cleaner air.

Fifteen years after the Olympic cauldron went dark, there is still much to celebrate.  The Clean Air Campaign and its partners currently work with more than 1,600 Georgia employers across the state on commute options programs that improve employee productivity and morale.  Tens of thousands of Georgia commuters have also changed their commute activity with assistance and resources from The Clean Air Campaign and more than 330 Georgia schools are involved in the Clean Air Schools program, educating future leaders about the importance of air quality.  Nearly a decade has passed since the region last experienced a Code Purple exceedence for ozone, and the number of Code Red exceedences has declined significantly. 

The transformational impact of the Summer Games on this region will always be a point of pride.  So, too, is the mission for less traffic and cleaner air.

This just in: it’s hot out there.  Through June 4, Metro Atlanta’s blistering heat wave, mixed with pollution from tailpipes, has caused the region to ring up five days in the last week and half where ground-level concentrations were considered “unhealthy for sensitive groups.”  Children, the elderly and those with respiratory conditions are most vulnerable to ground-level ozone exposure, which can inflame airways and lungs, making it tough to breathe.

What’s the antidote to this recent string of Code Orange ground-ozone days?  Certainly some sustained rainfall would help flush out some of the problem.  Cooler, windier conditions could help bring some relief, too.  But the latest weather forecast for the Atlanta region projects the strongest chances of rainfall may not come until after next weekend.  And Mother Nature has a reputation for being a fickle gal.  That’s why it’s up to individual commuters to take charge, to the extent that our choices can move the needle on smoggy conditions.  Half of Atlanta’s ground-level ozone emissions come from tailpipes.  So reduce your contribution to the problem.  Here are a few easy ways to help:

  • Commit to carpool, vanpool or ride transit to your job. Ask your boss for permission to telework.  There are loads of services available from The Clean Air Campaign to help make any of these options more possible for you than you might think.  Call 1-877-CLEANAIR or e-mail us and we’ll help you get started.    
  • If you have to be out and about in your car, avoid unnecessary idling.  Avoid drive-thru lanes.  Stay out of stop-and-go traffic conditions.  If you need to refuel, do it after dusk.  Be cognizant of the most efficient ways to combine your trips and errands. 
  • Brown-bag your lunch so you don't have to leave work in your car to grab a bite.  Avoid the lunchtime scramble on busy roads and save a few bucks at the same time.
  • Keep an eye on ground-level ozone and particle pollution forecasts, just like you do with weather forecasts.  Sign up to receive Smog Alerts so you can plan accordingly, tailor outdoor activities and reduce your exposure. 

These small actions can make a difference.  While we keep our fingers crossed for the perfect panacea to break up this sweltering spell and the dirty air it brings, keep in mind that we can all be part of the solution