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.
Recently, I set out on a grand experiment: to utilize MARTA as much as possible for four straight weeks. The first two weeks, my goal was to act as if I didn’t have any other mode of transportation. If I needed to get somewhere, I was taking MARTA.
After a bumpy first day, which saw me miss the very first bus I was scheduled to take, things ultimately improved, and I often surprised myself with my ability to get around town whether it be by foot, bus or train. Early in my experiment, I immediately noticed numerous benefits to ditching my car. Not only did I have more time to read, tweet and blog, I also felt less stress due to not having to sit in horrible traffic each morning. One thing I did miss on my journey, however, was all my stuff. You never realize how much stuff you can fit into a car until it is no longer an option. You quickly learn to carry only the essentials.
During the last two weeks of my experiment, I approached MARTA as if I was a commuter with a car. Having a car allowed me to sleep in two more hours each morning. It also allowed me to keep to my timetable a lot easier. If a bus was scheduled to leave at 8:15 a.m., I could get there just before it was ready to leave. Walking to a bus or train can be a little unpredictable.
During my journey I was surprised by how easy it was to use MARTA and how friendly its staff was. I was also surprised by how many people actually take advantage of MARTA on a daily basis. It seemed like each time I got on a bus or train, it was at capacity. Perhaps the biggest lesson I learned during my experiment was that preparation is everything when it comes to using public transportation. Remember the first bus I missed?
If you live along one of the train corridors, I would urge you to take MARTA more often. The sustainability community especially should make the commitment. Biking, walking, carpooling and other forms of mass transit all offer options for consideration. With the cost of gas and the peace of mind I get from not dealing with traffic, it's worth it. Being in the car again seems even more stressful after breezing along the train corridors.
So let me encourage you: commit to using a commute alternative at least one day a week. If you already are, that’s great. But if not, give it a try. Think about the change we could collectively make!
Beth Bond is the editor of Southeast Green. Having owned her own marketing company for over 15 years working with green companies, Beth knew the story of sustainability and green resided here in the Southeast. Since relaunching Southeast Green in September 2008, Bond has been establishing even broader liaisons and partners to help continue the story of green and sustainability.
Today's Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports a minor traffic accident involving a chicken truck had commuters clucking. No fowl play is suspected, but commuters in the vicinity are advised to be careful. Just reinforces what we've said all along: traffic is for the birds ;)
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.
A new study from Microsoft focused on IT workers validates the findings from a recent local study conducted on behalf of the Georgia Department of Transportation on regional commuting habits of Atlantans. In this latest effort from Microsoft, 4,500 IT workers from 15 cities were surveyed, with more than half indicating their companies have adopted a telework policy. Atlanta nabbed the top spot in the rankings. Here's a look at the top five:
Atlanta has soldified its niche as a telecom and IT gateway to the Southeastern U.S. So it's only natural that these types of industries and job functions should be embracing telework. But the growth of telework among all types of industry segments and job types cannot be understated. 600,000 Atlantans telework at least occasionally … enough people to fill the Georgia Dome eight times. The region has experienced growth in telework because there is more infrastructure to support it and because more employers are embracing telework as a business strategy.
Atlanta ranked highest for level of support from colleagues and highest use of secure internal social networking tools to collaborate with customers. This makes for great news to celebrate during Georgia Telework Week, coming up on the calendar for September 12-16.
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.
Whoever declared "getting there is half the fun" must have been a carpool, vanpool, transit, telework or bike/ped commuter. Plucked from recent headlines, here are three reasons more of us should try alternatives to driving alone ... because our well-being could literally depend on it:
Changing your commute could save your marriage.
Can the hassle of a lengthy commute douse the flames of matrimony? According to a dissertation from a Swedish institution of higher learning, those with longer commutes have more earning potential and career opportunities ... but they are 40% more likely to get divorced. Daily roundtrip commute times for one in ten lovelorn Swedes stands at around 45 minutes. Georgia commuters can top that: in metro Atlanta, the average roundtrip commute clocks in at precisely one hour. Think of all those honey-drenched text messages you could be sending discreetly to your significant other ("u complete me <3") from the comfort of an Xpress bus or the backseat of a vanpool.
Changing your commute could save you big bucks.
Why can't you afford to dine out on a juicy ribeye or strap on a new pair of shoes? Because more of your discretionary dollars are going toward gasoline. Of course you know this, but has it really sunk in? From Huffington Post, this mathematical moment of clarity:
"For every $10 the typical household earns before taxes, almost a full dollar now goes toward gas, a 40 percent bigger bite than normal. Families now spend more filling up than they spend on cars, clothes or recreation. Last year, they spent less on gasoline than each of those things."
The quickest way to shore up your household budget - and free up money to do the things you enjoy - is to keep your car's mileage down.
Changing your commute could save a life.
A new study from the Harvard School of Public health finds that motor vehicle emissions have a public health cost. Researchers looked at premature deaths in 83 urban areas that were the result of exposure to particle pollution, using models to correlate how much of that pollution was the result of vehicle emissions. The modeling found that in Atlanta, 70 premature deaths occurred in 2010 that were the result of particle pollution from tailpipes. The silver lining in this black cloud? The study notes that premature deaths and related social costs from traffic congestion are declining over the long run, as technology advances, control strategies and voluntary actions have all helped curb particle pollution emissions that come from cars and trucks. But there's more work to do. And it starts with the daily commute.
NOTE: Today's print edition of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution includes a front-page story in the Living section about the effects of asthma on Georgia youths. Dr. Ann-Marie Brooks, a colleague of John Popler at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, is quoted in the article, which notes that the metro Atlanta region has experienced four Code Orange days since the beginning of May, meaning air quality was considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, including children.
Many people in the United States – an estimated 159 million – live in places that have unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone or air pollution. Ground-level ozone is created when chemicals from cars, power plants, and factories mix with sunlight. Ozone tends to be higher in sunnier climates and during hot weather. It is a main part of smog, the brownish-yellow haze often seen hanging over cities.
Although ozone levels have declined since 2000, according to the American Lung Association, many people continue to be affected by high ozone levels. Poor air quality represents a continuing health hazard to both children and adults, especially those with chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma.
Children are especially at risk from unhealthy levels of ozone, as exposure to environmental ozone can irritate the lungs. This may make children more likely to suffer from asthma and related symptoms, such as cough, wheezing, and difficulty breathing.
It is always important to keep you and your family healthy. During the warmer months when ozone levels are high and air quality is poor:
• Don't drive. Share a ride, take public transportation, ride a bike, or walk.
• Don't put gas in your car until after 7 P.M.
• Limit use of outboard motors, off-road vehicles, or other gasoline-powered recreational vehicles.
• Avoid mowing the lawn or using other gasoline-powered gardening equipment when the air quality is poor.
Jonathan Popler, M.D. is a pediatric pulmonologist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
From the time I turned 10 years old, I have been in love with riding my bicycle. I've ridden, raced, trained and commuted on a bicycle. I've worked in bike shops, run teams, coached cyclists... I just love the sport of cycling. The thing is, the bicycle wasn't really invented to be a sport. It was invented to be a mode of transportation. A way to get around that was more efficient than walking along whistling Dixie.
Unfortunately, many people have forgotten that and opt to drive in a car wherever they go. They think of cycling as something they can do on a nice day for a couple hours of exercise. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with recreational riding, but why not be able to get someplace on your bike?
As much as I love cycling, there is something extra special about riding my bike to work. I enjoy leaving my car at home, getting out there, saving gas and burning calories. It's just awesome. My commute is no "joy ride" though. On a good day, it takes me about an hour each way on some not so friendly roads.
In my 30 plus years of cycling, I've learned a lot of things to help me share the road. As I use these skills, I am able to save over a gallon of gas every time I ride (that's a $4 pay raise!) not to mention the wear and tear on my car. I arrive at work with a fresh attitude and a better outlook on life. The only thing that makes me sad while I am out on the road, is that I almost NEVER see another person commuting on a bike. Think about this for just a minute. if everybody just committed themselves to using a commute alternative just ONE day a week, you would see:
- 20% less traffic
- 20% less air pollution
- 20% less wear and tear on your car
- A healthier community
- A greater appreciation for cyclist and pedestrians as you would know they are helping!
Think about it! I highly recommend you put some TRANS back in your sportation! If that doesn't work for you - hike, carpool or work from home! Be creative. Help me change the world, one commute at a time!
Scott Patton lives in Marietta. Bike to Work Week in Atlanta is May 16-20, 2011
Today we are proud to announce the winners of The Clean Air Campaign’s first annual “Young Lungs at Work” art competition. More than 200 comic strips were submitted by elementary students across Georgia. We were so impressed by how well students expressed the issues surrounding air quality and traffic and how their individual actions make a difference. 2011 “Young Lungs at Work” entries show kids as educators, as decision makers, and as problem solvers. Blue skies ahead!
Special thanks to all competitors and congratulations to our winners! Click on the images to view the full cartoons.