Posts tagged with air pollution
On July 4th, approximately 150,000 spectators will flock to the streets of Atlanta and raise their Solo cups as a toast to one of the most popular 10K races in the South. A city-wide tradition, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race offers 60,000 participants the chance to display their patriotism—without using a car.
The vehicle-free path, stretching all the way from Buckhead near Lenox Mall down to Piedmont Park, would be a dream come true for any commuter traveling the same route to and from work. In fact, the average cost of gas in metro Atlanta is $3.49/gallon and, according to the 2013 Texas Transportation Institute Urban Mobility Study, commuters collectively waste 63.5 million gallons of fuel while sitting idle in traffic.
Participants in the Peachtree Road Race may view walking as the perfect way to maintain fuel during the climb up “Cardiac Hill.” However, walking isn’t always the best solution for the commuter stuck in traffic. After all, the average round trip commute distance in metro Atlanta is 35 miles. The Georgia Commute Options programs make it possible for commuters to find carpool and vanpool partners, plan transit trips, and determine the cost savings of sharing the ride into work.
So how does a 6.2 mile race illustrate the benefits of making the switch to a commute alternative? According to the Commute Calculator, a commuter traveling 12.4 miles round trip for work pays an estimated $1,520 annually by driving alone. Making the change from driving alone to carpooling saves the commuter an estimated $380 each year.
Removing vehicles from the road not only cuts down on traffic congestion, but it also improves our air quality. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, half of all smog-forming emissions in the region come from the tailpipes of cars and trucks. An easy equation to remember is that 1 mile driven = 1 pound of pollution. So, the 60,000 athletes choosing to walk/run a 6.2 mile stretch collectively prevent 372,000 pounds of pollution from being emitted into the air. With results like these, change can only mean a good thing.
Even the Peachtree Road Race has undergone significant change since the first group of 110 participants crossed the finish line back in 1970. Sponsored by Carling Brewery, the race originally started at the old Sears building and made its way down to Central City Park—now known as Woodruff Park. Without significant change, the Peachtree Road Race would have never earned the title as largest 10K in the world.
As Employer Program Manager with The Clean Air Campaign, Sadler Croft helps North Fulton businesses develop commute options programs for their employees. Outside of work, Sadler dedicates time to Junior League of Atlanta and supporting the arts through Atlanta Symphony Associates. You can also find her lost in the pages of a good story or brushing up on her Arabic skills.
This summer, we will be stopping by cities around the world to check out their air quality and traffic situations. Our first destination is Peru where I recently spent almost 3 weeks backpacking through the southern half of the country. From Atlanta, we flew directly into the bustling city of Lima, the capital of Peru. Peru is an absolutely breathtaking country with so much to offer and I was very sad to leave, but unfortunately has a couple of issues that plague the region.
One of the first things I noticed about Lima was the coastal smell – a mixture of salt, seafood...and trash. Trash accumulation is a big problem throughout Peru and much of it is dumped into the Pacific Ocean, polluting the water and making it increasingly unfit for the Lima surfers. While we were quickly able to get used to the smell, the smog that surrounded us was hard to get over.
Cloudy with a Chance of Smog
The grey clouds made it look like it was about to rain, however we realized it was a heavy layer of smog coating the capital city. During our first day spent in downtown Lima, the haze began to hurt our eyes and noses as we weren't used to such thick pollution in the air. Air quality control is under the management of the Ministry of Environment and it’s reported that they issue warnings when there are high levels of pollution: watch, danger and emergency, but I have been unable to find what unhealthy levels of air quality must be reached to constitute those warnings. Due to high altitude, humidity, industrial activity and vehicle emissions, the World Meteorological Organization reports that Lima has the worst air quality situation in all of South America. In August of 2006, air pollution in Lima surpassed the international standard by 122.1%.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
80% of emissions come from the city’s vehicles and the world’s most contaminated diesel fuel is used by 60% of them. Much of Peru relies heavily on public transit and according to Lima’s Transport Investigation Center, there are an estimated 333,000 taxis and 60,000 buses circulating Lima. Street traffic is profoundly unregulated; driving in Peru should be considered an extreme sport as drivers will weave through traffic on either side of the road, stop signs and traffic lights are ignored, and cutting cars off is a way of life. I have never heard so many car horns except they aren’t used to make other drivers aware that they’ve done something wrong, they are used to let other drivers know that you are coming through. While at least 50 people are killed or injured by speeding cars and reckless drivers every day in Lima and I spent every ride white knuckling my seat or dodging multiple cars while crossing the street, we didn’t see a single accident while in Peru.
We are used to how Georgia is – smog season hits around May and lasts through September, and traffic can be a doozy. However, we are fortunate to have smog alerts at our disposal so when there is an unhealthy air quality day forecasted, we can be notified in order to limit our outdoor activities. While our air quality standards are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, much of the world lacks any form of air quality monitoring. The knowledge we have to continue to improve regional air quality is something to be thankful for, as well as opportunities to explore the world, experience other cultures, and brave their congested streets.
Stay tuned for the next edition of the summer travel series.
Jenny Schultz is the Communications Specialist with The Clean Air Campaign, one of several organizations in the Atlanta region that deliver Georgia Commute Options programs and services in partnership with the Georgia Department of Transportation. Jenny commutes by MARTA rail and currently spends her time on the train reading "Under the Dome."
Air Quality Awareness Week, occurring April 29-May 3, 2013, gives Georgia employers, commuters, and schools reason to celebrate the milestones we've accomplished for cleaner air...and remember the items that remain on our to-do list for a better Georgia. This photo with Governor Nathan Deal was taken at the proclamation signing.
Front row (pictured from left to right): Stephanie Zhu, Program Manager, Delta Air Lines; Lauren Rolader, Student, Tucker Middle School; MiKayla Wiseman, Student, Tucker Middle School; Nathan Deal, Governor, State of Georgia; Peyton Sammons, OnAir Blogger and Student, North Atlanta High School; Tedra Cheatham, Executive Director, The Clean Air Campaign. Back row (pictured from left to right): Eric Cox, Director of Contract Services, American Coach; Bradley Kodesh, LTD Team Leader- Group Benefit Claims, The Hartford; Lesley Carter, Schools Communication Manager, The Clean Air Campaign; Ashley Bejger, Environmental Engineer, Lockheed Martin; Ricky Martin, Service Manager, Gwinnett County Government; Howard Mindel, Clean Air Commuter Champion
Thanks to a smart combination to regulatory control measures put in place over the past decade and the voluntary actions that have helped bring more commuters to use alternatives to driving alone, the quality of the air we breathe is improving in Georgia. It's what we choose to do next that will influence the air we breathe in the years ahead. There's more work to be done for cleaner air...and we are grateful that more than 1,600 Georgia employers, tens of thousands of commuters and over 350 schools made the choice to improve the air we all breathe. Happy Air Quality Awareness Week!
I’m a huge fan of Wikipedia. If I’m challenged to find the correct words to explain something, I’ll go to my Wikipedia app and simply read the definition. I have found Wikipedia to be a good, reliable source of knowledge. Recently, after hearing about a 48-page report that the National Wildlife Federation issued on climate change, I wondered if I really understood what it was and how it was affecting our world. NWF called climate change “the biggest single threat to wildlife in this country.” That’s a bold statement. There is reference in the report to 177 bird species in North America that have shifted their range northward by an average of 35 miles because of warming temperatures. Being an avid animal lover, I needed to learn more.
Climate change is not an easy topic to explain, so I looked to my trusty friend, Wikipedia or “Wik” for short. Wik states that climate change is, “a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years.” After reading more, I wanted to know why a change in weather patterns could threaten wildlife so drastically. To me, it seemed like the animals would be able to adapt. After reading an article on the NWF report, I found out that the problem is how drastic the temperatures are changing—a 7-10 degree warming of global temperatures during a period of 100 years would guarantee the demise of many species as they are forced into an evolutionary dead end.
The Wikipedia entry further explained that climate change is caused by factors that include oceanic processes, variations in solar radiation received by Earth, plate tectonics and volcanic eruptions, and human-induced alterations of the natural world; these latter effects are currently causing global warming, and ’climate change‘ is often used to describe human-specific impacts.
Human specific impacts… so, technically we are a part of the reason why the birds have had to shift their flight pattern. The good news is that there is a way for us to stop this. Specifically, according to NWF, “Any solution to climate change will involve diminished use of fuels that pump carbon into the atmosphere.”
I've learned from working at The Clean Air Campaign that every mile we drive is putting a pound of pollution and CO2 into the air. If your commute is 15 miles in to work, then you are putting 30 pounds of pollution in to the air every day you drive to work. If, however, you carpool to work with three other people – you are reducing the pollution you emit by 90 pounds every day. That’s huge!
Just for fun, I asked Wik to explain carpooling and was offered that, “carpooling (also known as car-sharing, ride-sharing, lift-sharing and covoiturage), is the sharing of car journeys so that more than one person travels in a car. By having more people using one vehicle, carpooling reduces each person's travel costs such as fuel costs, tolls, and the stress of driving. Carpooling is also seen as a more environmentally friendly and sustainable way to travel as sharing journeys reduces carbon emissions, traffic congestion on the roads, and the need for parking spaces.” Maybe if more people carpooled or chose other options like vanpooling, walking, taking mass transit, teleworking or riding their bike, we could slow down the drastic change in our climate. I bet Wik would agree.
Beth Ament is the Employer Services Team Manager at The Clean Air Campaign. She is the sustainability subject matter expert and also helps manage the outreach team as they deliver Georgia Commute Options programs and services in the Atlanta region. A frequent teleworker and MARTA rail rider, Beth dedicates time to practicing yoga and hiking with her dog.
Curious about congestion? Seeking enlightenment on environmental issues? When inquiring minds want to know about the latest happenings influencing Georgia’s transportation and air quality, they turn to Merging Lanes.
Where can you find the 7th-worst traffic in the US?
Right here in metro Atlanta, according to the latest edition of an annual study led by the Texas Transportation Institute. That’s one spot worse than last year’s #8 ranking. So, what are the key takeaways from the latest report? Overall, not a whole lot has changed dramatically from last year to this year in the data. Delay from traffic – above and beyond normal commute travel times – takes away from each commuter in the region an average of 51 hours over the course of a year (up an hour over last year’s data). That’s more than an entire weekend out of your year that goes up in smoke. The average cost of delay to each peak-period commuter nets out to $1,120 annually, up slightly from the prior year ($1,106). The pessimists out there may be inclined to lash out in frustration over the loss of time and money. But if you’re an optimist, look at it as time and money that could be restored to your life by making greater use of commute options.
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How did they do that?
From Gizmodo.com, this story about a complicated and awe-inspiring dig using giant-sized drilling machinery to create a 5.6-mile network of additional rail capacity under NYC. Frankly, it makes Andy Dufresne’s tunnel from “The Shawshank Redemption” look rather pedestrian.
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Where’s the riskiest place to live when you’re recovering from a heart attack?
A recent medical study reinforces the link between fine particle pollution and heart health, finding that heart attacks are deadlier in areas where soot is more prevalent, making it all the more difficult to live a healthy life after experiencing a heart attack. Conducted in Britain, the study followed more than 150,000 people who had received medical treatment/intervention for heart failure. Examining air quality data where these people lived and tying that information to demographic characteristics for zip codes showed those living in lower-income and less educated zip codes had higher mortality rates. This falls in line with other studies that note poorer physical health in poverty-stricken areas. For a crash course on meaningful ways you can help protect the air we breathe, click here.
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What tricks could Georgia learn from Utah in dealing with persistent smog challenges?
Admittedly, the topography and climate are very different between here and there. But a few time zones away, regions in Utah have already experienced three weeks of Code Orange and Code Red smog conditions so far this year, brought on by stagnant weather patterns and fossil fuel burning. This New York Times article outlines the challenges facing Utah residents and policymakers, but check out the very end of the article describing the possibility of the legislature creating free public access to transit and instructing state agencies to take steps to mitigate air pollution when smog is at its predictable worst. Could these policy-driven approaches work here in the Peach State?
Brian Carr is Director of Communications at The Clean Air Campaign, one of several organizations in the Atlanta region that deliver Georgia Commute Options programs and services in partnership with the Georgia Department of Transportation. A daily MARTA rail rider, Brian uses his morning commute time on the Blue Line to read about current events and play "Words With Friends."
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.
The year 1996 was a big one for transforming metro Atlanta. Not only did the region host the Olympics, but it was also the year that traffic information in Georgia was revolutionized by the creation of NaviGAtor. Realizing the extent of traffic issues the region would encounter as employers, commuters and international visitors converged on Atlanta during the Olympic Games, the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) worked with federal and local authorities to create an Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) to manage the situation.
After 14 years of development, NaviGAtor continues to expand its area of coverage and has led to easier travel, increased safety and saved time and money, all while keeping pollution out of the air. About 350,000 Georgians get traffic information from www.georgia-navigator.com each week, – in addition to the thousands who use the 511 service for such options as real-time traffic updates, reporting incidents and connecting to rideshare and transit information – and the HERO service has assisted motorists involved in a million traffic incidents since launch. Yet despite all that the NaviGAtor system does to help mobility in the state, and your commute, many citizens don’t realize the impact it’s had on them.
You may forget how bad gridlock was before GDOT’s NaviGAtor came along, so here’s a little reminder. Once in the summer of 1991, there were two accidents on I-285. Pretty typical, right? Well, because the accidents were blocking the highway and assistance was unable to get there in time, people were stuck in the 90-degree temperature for hours, getting overheated, running out of gas and experiencing heat exhaustion. By the time emergency vehicles heard about and were able to respond to this situation, they couldn’t get through to the accidents because of the overwhelming volume of backed up traffic. In those days, it didn’t take much to seriously back up traffic, because if your car or truck broke down in the middle of the interstate or you got in an accident, you sat there until you could get a tow truck to come move you out of the way. Today, NaviGAtor’s HERO trucks patrol 280 miles of metro Atlanta interstates, providing assistance to motorists and commuters in need. The trucks can also be dispatched instantly when motorists report an incident using 511. Unlike 10 years ago, the average clearing time for a car accident incident is now only 10 minutes thanks to HERO, thereby keeping traffic flowing and improving your commute to work.
To better understand NaviGAtor’s impact on the region, consider this. In one year, the NaviGAtor service saved 7 million vehicle-hours of incident delays and 5.2 million gallons of gasoline. It provided 49,000 motorist assists and prevented more than 340 crashes. By helping us avoid more gridlock, NaviGAtor has also protected Georgians from exposure to the extra air pollution that sitting in traffic creates. During a sample year, NaviGAtor helped keep 186 tons of hydrocarbons, more than 2,457 tons of carbon monoxide and more than 261 tons of nitrogen oxide out of the air we breathe. A big thank you to the dedicated team working behind the scenes at NaviGAtor, because even though metro Atlanta has traffic and air quality issues, it clearly would be a lot worse without the helping hands of the NaviGAtor intelligent transportation system.
For more information about NaviGAtor and to get real-time traffic information, visit www.georgia-navigator.com, or call 511.
The chill of autumn is in the air. And The Clean Air Campaign is glad to exchange all the Code Orange smog days over the past five months for orange pumpkins and fall leaves. Rake in all the Georgia transportation and air quality happenings in this latest edition of Merging Lanes.
BP After "Math": Not All's Well That Ends Well
We're approaching the six-month anniversary of the Gulf oil disaster that became one of the worst pollution events in our nation's history. Our water-cooler conversations all spring and summer included terms like "top kill" and "blowout preventer." We watched the live underwater camera feeds and debated whether the nation's dependence on oil had finally gone too far. And although the The Deepwater Horizon well was finally capped several weeks ago, the aftermath will be felt for a long time.
The Feds have arrived at an official estimate for BP's Gulf oil spill - pegged at about five million barrels of oil. Since U.S. refineries produce around 20 gallons of gasoline from one barrel (42 gallons) of crude oil, the spill equates to around 100 million gallons of gasoline. But how connected can Georgians feel to this issue at this point? Figure in the Atlanta region there are about 2.37 million commuters. Of those, about 84% drive alone on their daily commute, averaging a 40 mile roundtrip to and from work. Assuming average fuel economy of about 20 miles to the gallon, that’s nearly 4 million gallons of gas burned every day on commute activity alone.
So commuters in metro Atlanta would burn through this oil spill in approximately 25 days of just normal commuting to and from work. When will more of us turn our discontent over this situation into something actionable?
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Survey Says: What's Different About Your Commute
The 2009 edition of the American Community Survey came out last week, with a section dedicated to commuting characteristics. A few highlights:
- 11% of Georgians carpool to work compared to 10% nationally
- Roughly two out of five of us statewide live in one county and work in another
- That number jumps to more than four out of five in the Atlanta region
- Mean travel time actually "improved" in Atlanta from 30.4 minutes each way to 30.1 minutes. For drive-alone commuters, that represents about a 30-second gain in free time each day. Please, contain your enthusiasm.
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Type II Diabetes Linked to Particle Pollution
A new study has been published demonstrating a correlation between type II diabetes in adults and exposure to particle pollution. According to the researchers, "For every 10 micrograms per cubic meter increase in PM2.5 exposure, there was a 1 percent increase in diabetes prevalence." Although the high season for ground-level ozone has just ended in Georgia, fine particulate matter is a year-round threat to public health. Learn how to limit your exposure and limit your contribution to the problem.
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"Mad" About Transit ...
How has AMC's "Mad Men" series - a sleek 1960s cable TV show about the golden age of advertising - garnered three consecutive Emmy awards for Best Drama? According to this New York Times article, clean commuting plays a lead role.
Like a marathon runner digging deep on that last mile, many Atlantans are huffing and puffing through these last days of smog season 2010. The finish line is drawing ever closer (officially September 30), but recent air quality conditions are forcing us to limp along the final stretch.
Here are the facts for Metro Atlanta:
- The region has racked up 25 ground-level exceedances for the year.
- There have been nine in September alone -- that's more September exceedances than we’ve had since 1999 – when we had 14 to close out the last month of smog season.
- We're on a streak of seven violations in the past 9 days, with another forecasted for today.
And now, some big-picture perspective on air quality:
- Ozone concentrations in Georgia and much of the United States have improved over the past few decades, even with large population increases that put more demands on energy use and vehicle travel. This improvement has been the result of state and federal regulatory controls to reduce emissions from sources like power plants, industry and automobiles, not to mention voluntary programs like those of The Clean Air Campaign.
- This year, metro Atlanta has been simmering over an extended period with temperatures that have been hotter than normal. Hot weather is a key ingredient to the formation of ground-level ozone. On top of that, the AJC reports only .14 inch of rain has fallen this month. That’s 2.91 inches below normal for the first three weeks of September. But conditions change often. Last year was much more forgiving ... and next year may be, too.
- There has never been a better time to give your car the day off, as half of all smog-forming emissions in the Atlanta region come from the tailpipes of cars. Choosing to carpool, vanpool, ride transit, telework or even bicycle and walk can make all the difference for healthier air. Sooner or later, rethinking the drive-alone commute crosses the mind of every commuter who is fed up with traffic congestion and lost money/time. So, when will you reach your tipping point?
What's a parent to do on a Code Orange day?
The Clean Air Campaign received a call this week from a concerned parent looking for guidance on whether his children should participate in outdoor activities involving physical exercise. While the best advice for parents is to consult with their child's pediatrician, there is a great reference document prepared in collaboration between The Clean Air Campaign and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta with guidelines on protecting children from air pollution. Worth a look for any parent with active children.
Full recap on smog season coming soon ...
Watch this space for a full recap of smog season 2010. The Clean Air Campaign is crunching numbers and will deliver a summary in early-October, plus a look ahead to pending changes regarding the standards by which ground-level ozone is measured.
Sometimes when you want to get your point across about social change, satire works best. That's the thinking behind a campaign in Hong Kong to improve air quality. This mock infomercial was created by the Hong Kong Clean Air Network. Check it out:
Humor works to command attention. So does a good visual demonstration. Watch The Clean Air Campaign's more straight-forward pitch on smog awareness here.