Posts tagged with carpooling
New year. New challenges. Same mission. And more moxie than ever to see this thing through. Yes, 2013 is going to be big. So, stick with Merging Lanes for all the latest analysis about how transportation and air quality issues play out in Georgia during the year.
Fiscal Cliff Deal Brings Welcome Changes to Commuter Choice Program
As the nation teetered on the edge of the “fiscal cliff” earlier this month, Congress came through for transit and vanpool commuters with an increase in allowable tax benefits that restores parity with commuter parking benefits. The new maximum benefit for 2013 climbs to $245 per month for qualified transit, vanpool and carpool expenses. The bicycle commuter benefit remains at $20 per month for qualified expenses. For workplaces, the “Commuter Choice” program that carries these non-taxable benefits (IRS section 132(f) for those interested in looking it up) represents an important and still-overlooked resource. According to a US Census Bureau National Compensation Survey on employee access to quality of life benefits, 34% of all workers have access to wellness programs through their employer, but only 6% of workers have access to subsidized commuting. It’s time for more employers to connect the dots between these concepts and how they can work together to make employees happier and healthier.
Lane ends 2,000 feet.
Airpocalypse: Smog Goes Off the Charts in Beijing
January’s events in China’s largest metropolis remind us that there’s poor air quality, and then there’s air quality so hazardous it could not be measured. A massive air inversion enveloped Beijing in a cloud of particle pollution for a week, with concentrations of soot that surpassed the measurement scheme created to gauge them. What caused this phenomenon, dubbed by some English-speakers in China as “the airpocalypse?” A combination of high energy demand satisfied by coal and a rapidly expanding fleet of cars, plus stagnant weather. And concentrations there were reported to have reached as high as 800 micrograms per cubic meter, which would obliterate the scales using the EPA’s measurement system. For reference, the Air Quality Index values we use in the United States end at 500, which indicates hazardous conditions that would be grave enough to seriously affect everyone’s health. Fortunately the likelihood of this occurring in our neck of the woods is extremely remote. But a hemisphere away, another Olympic city is puzzling through similar challenges to manage population growth and energy consumption that results in particle pollution.
Lane ends 1,000 feet.
Not-So Wide Awake: New Study Examines Drowsy Drivers Among Us
Maybe it’s time to switch to espresso. A recent study released by the Centers for Disease Control found that one in 24 of adults admit to having dozed off while driving. Yikes. The findings suggest men were more likely to have driven while drowsy and those ages 25-34 also indexed higher. At the root of these slumbering sojourns, of course, is sleep deprivation. Perhaps a great excuse to get more shuteye, and find a wakeful wingman to carpool with. Be careful out there.
Lane ends 500 feet.
Look Around: The Signs Point to Georgia Commute Options
If you’ve been crawling in traffic around metro Atlanta recently, your eyes may have cast a glance toward digital billboards for Georgia Commute Options, the new name for the suite of services that help commuters and workplaces take action to reduce congestion. Georgia Commute Options is a program of the Georgia Department of Transportation, delivered in partnership with The Clean Air Campaign and local transportation management associations. These colorful billboards are part of a campaign to introduce commuters to the notion that they can get more out of life by driving less. Because when it comes to commuting, more of us have more options than we realize. Have you taken stock lately of what else is out there to try besides driving alone? Find out more about what Georgia Commute Options can do to help you.
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."
We were saddened this week to learn that The New York Times has declared carpooling dead. The article describes a national trend that the vital signs for carpooling, once thriving in the 70's during the oil crisis, have been declining over the past 30 years -- and now a once-popular solution to combating fuel prices and traffic has passed away.
According to the Times, carpooling is survived by its distant cousin, slugging.
The Clean Air Campaign, along with metro Atlanta carpoolers, read the obituary. But we didn’t get the memo.
Reports about the death of carpooling are greatly exaggerated. In fact, the American Community Survey shows metro Atlanta carpool numbers have held rather steady over the past decade:
% Atlanta Commuters Who Carpool
Looking at the national picture, remember that carpooling first appeared as a data point on the census in 1980, when the aftereffects of the oil crisis were still raging. And it’s not surprising that carpool numbers went down from 1980 to 1990 as oil prices stabilized. In spite of this, Atlanta ranks among the top 10 U.S. cities for carpooling based on 2000 census figures.
Georgia – particularly Atlanta – is better positioned than many other areas of the U.S. to make carpooling attractive to commuters and employers because of programs like:
- Guaranteed Ride Home – when carpoolers and other users of commute alternatives need to get home because of an unexpected event – or have to work late – RideSmart and The Clean Air Campaign can arrange a free ride home.
- Ridematching Assistance – there’s a database of 50,000 Georgia commuters seeking carpool partners, vanpool partners and bike buddies. Chances are, many of them may live and work near you.
- Carpool Rewards – carpools of three or more can earn $40-$60 in monthly gas cards from The Clean Air Campaign.
It could also be argued that Atlanta's limited transit footprint makes it more likely for commuters to opt for carpooling if they're motivated to do something other than drive alone and have the means.
So we say to those grieving over the death of carpooling, before you pull the hearse around front, be sure to hold Atlanta out of the funeral procession.
Seeing is believing. When commuters see how much they stand to gain from not driving alone, they’re reluctant to go back to old habits. When they’re shown that clean commuting can actually be made fun, they are likely to share the news with others. And when they can visually comprehend how transportation and air quality fit together like yin and yang, they hold the power to change the world. At least that’s the vision for this latest installment of Merging Lanes. So keep your eyes peeled, and take a quick glance at what’s happening.
All Aboard: New Vanpool Riders Can Now Earn $3 a Day, Too
Did you know there are more than 300 commuter vans rolling across Georgia? For some dedicated vanpoolers, there’s simply no other way they’d even contemplate getting to work. And now, an exciting new change to the financial incentives program is going to help bring even more new vanpoolers on board. The $3 a day program that pays solo drivers to make the switch from driving alone to alternatives has been expanded to include vanpooling as an eligible mode. For years, vanpool commuting was not included in the $3 a day program, in part because of the other financial support available to vanpoolers. But happily, the van is now part of the plan. There are resources to help you locate vanpool routes, find riders and sign up to earn $3 a day. Check it out.
Lane ends 2,000 feet.
Ozone Update: Still Waiting to Exhale
The US Environmental Protection Agency has further extended the timeline for its review of the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ground-level ozone. The new deadline is December 31, 2010. So, hang in there a little longer. And as soon as a ruling is communicated, The Clean Air Campaign will help make sense of it. The new standard – wherever it lands – holds the prospect of saving thousands of lives. There’s no doubt a ruling that makes this much difference to public health and welfare takes time.
Lane ends 1,000 feet.
Carpool Cool: Rap Video Nets National Award Recognition
How do you make carpooling cool in the eyes of John and Jane Q. Public? Write a rap about the joys of carpooling and the resources to help people do it That’s exactly what one commuter did. And in 2009, The Clean Air Campaign worked with this talented individual, plus the three other members of his carpool, to produce a music video that calls out key components of the commute options incentive programs designed to get commuters to try alternatives.
The Transportation Research Board recently recognized this carpool rap video with an honorable mention in the organization’s 4th annual competition, “Communicating Concepts with John and Jane Q. Public: Sustainability and Livability.” It’s exciting to see fun projects like this recognized by TRB. Now, what should we do for an encore? Send us your ideas.
Lane ends 500 feet.
More Carpool Fun: Mobile Web Game Rewards Carpoolers
What do you get when you cross FourSquare, the popular location-based social media game, with a ridematching concept that helps place people into carpools? Ridekicks, a game/rideshare tool from the UK (still in beta) that brings the potential to put more commuters into carpools. Carpoolers will ultimately earn points toward rewards, and frequent carpoolers can vie for elite status, akin to becoming “mayor” of an establishment in FourSquare. Sounds like fun. Hope a US version is on the way soon.
A new marketing survey finds commuters in "The City Too Busy to Hate" have ample time to project anger towards each other as they jockey for position on the region's congested roadways.
Atlanta, the genteel metropolis where people say "hey" and open the door for one other, checks in at #4 on the list of cities with the least courteous drivers, behind New York, Dallas and Detroit. Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, Portland, Oregon, topped the rankings as the most courteous city for motorists.
The worst part is that Atlanta moved up on the list, from 6th in 2008. Guess lots of the 84% of commuters in the region who drive alone each day need to smooth out some anger issues.
How did we go from bad to worse? A few thoughts:
1. Population growth has brought a million new residents to metro Atlanta in the past decade, and the region expects to add another two million people by 2030. We're fighting for our "personal space" on a crowded transportation network that projects to grow even more crowded. And we're not happy about it.
2. We're not paying attention to what we're doing because we're preoccupied with multi-tasking, talking on the phone or texting. Of the 24 cities participating in the survey, Atlanta was the city most likely to see other commuters slam on their brakes at the last minute.
3. We're short on patience because we're always running late due to delay from traffic (which burns up 60 hours a year for the average metro ATL commuter). This shows up in the finding that Atlanta is second-most likely to see other commuters run through red lights on a daily basis or change lanes without warning.
What can we do to suppress some of the asphalt angst we fling at our fellow commuters?
Here's an idea: next time you're behind the wheel and that vein pops out of your neck because the dummy in front of you just swerved into your lane and cut you off, share a laugh about it with your carpool partner. Or, tuck away that middle finger and thank your lucky stars you don't have to do battle in traffic the next day because you're working a compressed workweek. Or, ease up on the horn and make a mental note to ask your employer about getting a discounted transit pass.
Maybe these are the things the happy commuters do in Portland.
Back to school and back to the carpool line. Every year parents wait anxiously in the car to greet their students after the first day back. It’s very tempting to wait with the air conditioning running, especially since we’ve all heard the myth that idling uses less fuel than restarting your car. Actually, idling for 30 seconds wastes more gas than restarting your engine.
And every minute spent idling releases 6.6 pounds of pollution into the air around your child’s school. Pollution from vehicle emissions is especially harmful to children, who are lower to the ground near vehicle tailpipes and breathe on average 50 percent more per pound of body weight than adults. This means their young lungs could be breathing in twice as much pollution.
Not a healthy thought.
Through the Clean Air Schools program, The Clean Air Campaign offers solutions to unhealthy air on school grounds. No idling campaigns, walking school buses and bus ridership empower students to do their part to make the air cleaner and healthier.
Do the programs really work? During the 2007- 2008 school year, 10 Gwinnett County Public Schools participated in a no-idle pilot program and reduced idling on schools grounds by 69 percent, more than double their goal. And thanks to a grant from The UPS Foundation, The Clean Air Campaign will be able to take no idling campaigns to almost 125 schools this coming school year.
Through our longstanding partnership with Mothers & Others for Clean Air, The Clean Air Campaign is supporting greater awareness among school administrators of the health risks that children face when they participate in outdoor physical activities on Smog Alert days.
Do you know if your school system employs no-idling measures? Are students encouraged to form walking school buses or carpool? Let us know how your school keeps the air healthy or blog about getting involved with Clean Air Schools.
“Meta-what?” you’re probably asking. That’s the battle cry being heard around the state from devoted “Good Morning America” viewers and all of us here at The Clean Air Campaign. We’ve been rooting for our Bronze Level Partner Metametrix, Inc. as five of its employees competed in the morning show’s first ever Carpool Challenge.
Duluth-based Metametrix was one of eight carpooling teams from around the country that competed to lower their commute costs and save the environment. They did it by ditching their solo commute and sharing the ride with co-workers headed in the same direction.
You can track Metametrix’s success here, where they logged their commute and blogged about it all week long.
And if you’re inspired by what your fellow Georgians have been doing in the national media spotlight, why not give carpooling a try yourself? Just a few weeks ago Michael, Kris, Bryant, Eve and Augustin were driving to work alone too, but after reading their blogs, it seems they love their new commute and the instantaneous benefits that come with sharing the ride. RideSmart will even match you with a potential carpool. So give it a try, then come back and leave a message on our blog about your experience.