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Global climate change is a huge, controversial issue, one that, according to Wikipedia, is caused by any combination of oceanic processes, variations in solar radiation, plate tectonics and volcanic eruptions, and human-induced alternations to the nature world. Cities all over the world are tackling this environmental challenge and reaping the rewards for their citizens. CDP has recently published a report. Wealthier, Healthier Cities, which shows cities that implement energy efficient policies have also seen an increase in financial savings and a reduction in health costs for their residents.

Of the 110 cities researched in this report, 55% are utilizing emissions reductions programs to decrease CO2 emissions, improve air quality, and progressing public health through growing local biking and walking behavior.

Here in the metro Atlanta region, we are also promoting more sustainable practices. To become more involved with biking, one can join The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition or take a ride on The Atlanta BeltLine. Look Up Atlanta is a great resource to find out what environmental campaigns are happening in your community and how you can become involved. Furthermore, Georgia Commute Options has resources to help one find a greener commute that will save money and improve the air we all breathe. 

Sarah Wilgus is a Commuter Services Coordinator for the 85N team at The Clean Air Campaign. As a MARTA rider, she uses her commute time to do schoolwork and listen to “Spotify.”



Welcome to the bliss of a Georgia summer that has brought unexpected good news about the air we breathe and a bevy of fun events to celebrate commute alternatives. Frolic with us and enjoy the latest edition of Merging Lanes.

Smog-Free (So Far) in 2013: Keep Up the Good Work!
Turns out what’s NOT making headlines this summer is actually big news. Georgia’s hottest months, combined with high humidity and stagnant winds, usually create ideal conditions for smog. But so far this summer, metro Atlantans have been able to breathe easier, as there have been – surprisingly – no days so far in 2012 when ground-level ozone concentrations have reached unhealthy levels. This is the deepest we have gone into the calendar year without a Smog Alert since the Georgia Environmental Protection Division’s Ambient Monitoring Program began collecting air quality data in 1996.

What do we have to thank for our cleaner summer air? Certainly the frequent rain and cooler temperatures have been helping, considering Atlanta’s rainfall stands about 15 inches above normal for the year. It’s been a relief to those who suffer from asthma and bronchial problems, which can be aggravated by higher concentrations of ozone and particle pollution. But an equally important factor is the 400,000 commuters in the Atlanta region who choose commute options. Every workday, green commuters eliminate a combined 1.1 million miles of vehicle travel – enough to circle the globe 50 times. Is this streak of healthier air likely to last? Who knows what will happen next with the weather. But with commuting patterns set to change in August for the return to school, it’s important to keep up the great work by choosing greener commute options.

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Preview of Coming Attractions: Georgia Telework Week
What’s the commute option that 64% of metro Atlanta execs rely on most as part of a business strategy to give their organizations a competitive advantage? It’s telework, and the region is wired to support it, with tens of thousands of miles of fiber optic cable … and a systemic traffic problem that has more managers looking for ways to get their employees out of traffic. The many partners that deliver Georgia Commute Options programs are joining forces with Governor Nathan Deal to kick off the fourth annual Georgia Telework Week, taking place August 19-23, 2013. Employers can find out more about what’s in store – including can’t miss seminar events and recognition – by clicking here. And commuters who telework - or are interested in making the case to their boss about why they should - can get more info here.

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Eat This, Walk That
Several stories have surfaced recently about academic research pointing to a disconnection between eateries posting calorie counts for their menu offerings and comprehension or changes in behavior. The hamburger says it has 500 calories, but what does one do with that information? This handy infographic from a University of North Carolina study on the topic helps put calorie counts into context with active commuting.

Commuters who ride a bike or walk part of the way to work or to a transit station have a head start.

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Vanpoolooza 2013: The Fun Continues
Did you know there are more than 400 commuter vanpools rolling in Georgia? There’s an incredible sense of camaraderie that comes with riding together on a van. To put the fun and friendship into pictures, there’s a fun photo contest coming soon to the Georgia Commute Options Facebook page. Vanpoolers are invited to decorate their vans and submit a photo for the chance to win prizes. Get the scoop here, but don’t dally: photo submission deadline is Friday, August 2.

Merge.

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."



Everyone can appreciate some R&R (rest and relaxation); however another set of R’s is equally as important. Those R’s are reduce, reuse, and recycle. Being more sustainable does not necessarily mean making huge lifestyle changes but cultivating alternatives and improvements into your everyday behavior. Using the three R’s as your guide, you can alter your day-to-day actions and habits that matter most in reducing air pollution.

Reduce.
You can reduce your drive alone time by using an alternative form of transportation. If you do not know of one you can register at LogYourCommute.org to see what carpool, vanpool, or transit options are available for you. Remember that every mile you drive puts a pound of pollution into the air.

By using alternative routes of transportation you can reduce your time in traffic, money spent on gas, and your stress levels.

Reuse.
Georgia Tech and The Atlanta Bike Coalition have a great program for people who would like to try a bike, but are not ready to make an investment until they have more experience. Through the Starter Bike program, volunteers refurbish abandoned or donated bikes into low-cost, reliable bikes for those wanting to try out bike commuting.

Here are some other creative ways to reuse an old bike:

Recycle.
Many people know that recycling materials such as aluminum, glass, and plastic is beneficial for the environment; but did you know that recycling aluminum specifically has a big impact on air pollution? According to the Oberlin College Conservation Team, air pollution related to aluminum production is cut by 95 percent when recycled aluminum cans are used. One of the main by-products of aluminum production is sulfur dioxide, which is an ingredient in acid rain.

Every small effort counts to being part of the solution.

Sarah Wilgus is a Commuter Services Coordinator for the 85N team at The Clean Air Campaign. As a MARTA rider, she uses her commute time to do schoolwork and listen to “Spotify.”



Happy summer! All quiet in the skies so far, with zero days experienced to this point in Georgia that have reached into “Code Orange” territory. The last time we made it to the last week of June without a Smog Alert was back in 1997 … when the debut album from the Spice Girls was on top of the charts (fast forward to 2013 and whispers of a reunion tour have grown louder in recent months). So, reach deep into your MP3 playlist for “Wannabe” and savor all that Merging Lanes has to offer in this latest installment.

For Whom the Bell Tolls: GA 400 Tolls Coming Down in November
The State Road and Tollway Authority announced recently a window of time for the GA 400 tolls to cease, along with a plan for how the corridor running through Buckhead will be reshaped. The toll collection is slated to go offline in late-November, but the toll plaza will remain longer. The prelim engineering design shows commuters will have three lanes of access all the way through the toll plaza, and discussions are still ongoing about how to repurpose the widened area of the toll plaza, possibly for greenspace or equipment storage.

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China Seeks to Usher in New Rules on Curbing Smog
While there has been little to report about smog in Georgia so far this summer (not that we’re complaining), a vastly different story is taking shape in Asia. China's unprecedented industrial growth and modernization has brought the country to a sort of crossroads between economic progress and environmental protection. The country's policymakers are exploring new rules to curb lethal smog emissions that linger over industrial centers. But this New York Times article points out the delicate nature of enacting sweeping changes in China. Could social protest and the will of the people to protect their environment cause a Clean Air Act to spring forth in China?

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Metro Atlanta Commuters Dump the Pump for Transit
Last week marked the first known cohesive regional effort to support the American Public Transportation Association's "Dump the Pump" event, now in its 8th year. In all, more than 1,000 commuters took the pledge to ride transit at least once during the week of June 17-21. This activity provided the ideal forum to help educate more commuters in the region about where transit can take them, from Xpress bus service in suburban areas to local shuttles and MARTA rail intown. Find out more about the region's total transit network and see what new enhancements local providers are working on by replaying last week's webinar:

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Beyond the Pump: Overall Commute Costs Inch Upward
Driving alone costs more than just the gas in your tank. There's also oil, tires, wear and tear and a host of other factors that add up as the odometer wheels spin. And overall, the cost per mile to drive a car continues to go up according to the latest AAA "Your Driving Costs" study. Based on a mid-sized sedan driven 15,000 miles annually, the cost per mile to operate and own the vehicle clocks in at 61 cents, up from 59 cents a year ago. What's driving the increase? For starters, gas prices are - stealthily - higher than a year ago. But the cost to repair cars, worn down from all the miles we travel, has also risen, especially in Georgia. In fact, one study ranks Georgia as the sixth costliest state for car repairs. Before the check engine light comes on, consider driving less to make your car last longer.

Merge.

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."



Air Quality Awareness Week (April 29-May 3) is a perfect time to learn more about our region's air quality issues and what you can do to help the air we all breathe.

 

For more information, visit www.CleanAirCampaign.org/Your-Air-Quality-Transportation.



Fad or trend diets are not new to us—Atkins, South Beach, Paleo, and even the Cookie Diet—the first ones popping up around the 19th century. They’ll always be around; however, according to a new study from The NPD Group, the number of people on diets has declined by more than 35 percent over the past 21 years. Is this due to the shift in what is perceived as a healthy weight? Or is it a result of people trying to be overall healthier rather than testing out fad diets? I choose to believe the latter.

You see, it hasn’t just been about improving ones diet; more and more people are embracing being ‘green.’ Americans have taken it upon themselves to join a global movement to conserve, to drive the development of eco-friendly consumption, to buy hybrids, or choose an alternative to driving alone. More and more people recycle, turn their yards into gardens, and understand the connection between saving money, helping the environment, and improving their health.

We are also seeing an increase in the use of commute options. On any given workday in metro Atlanta, around 400,000 people use commute alternatives, such as carpooling, vanpooling, using transit, or riding their bike. With busy schedules, family obligations and the day-to-day rigmarole, commuters have a hard time finding time to stay fit. By biking or walking at least part of the way into work, commuters are able get in a work out and have time to make dinner or take the kids to soccer practice. The European Journal of Epidemiology research found that commuting physical activity, independent of leisure time physical activity, was associated with a healthier level of most of the cardiovascular risk factors.

Individuals aren’t the only ones trying to make a difference in our environment and wellness. Alcoa, a maker of aluminum products, introduced an architectural panel that is not only self-cleaning but also cleans the air around it. Basically, it eats smog. If enough buildings use the product, it could have a significant impact on the air we all breathe as 10,000 square feet of its panels have the air-cleansing power of about 80 trees. Additionally, city officials in Chicago dubbed a two mile stretch of Cermak Road “the greenest street in America.” The street uses a pavement that reduces air pollution and was upgraded using various green technologies as part of a project to explore how sustainability in infrastructure can help solve larger environmental problems.

While our perceptions towards healthy weights may have changed over the past two decades, our attitudes towards keeping our bodies, minds, and planet healthy have improved. If you’re interested in being healthier you can choose to eat better, work out more, learn about the health effects of poor air quality, or switch up your commute. Even the smallest adjustments can make a big difference.

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 "Stranger in a Strange Land." 



Metro Atlanta is about to get swept into the frenzy of college basketball’s Final Four, which will tip off in a matter of days to the delight of local sports fans and bracket barons. According to some estimates, the business world forfeits some $143 million in lost productivity due to the siren song of March Madness. So, while there is a break in the action, allow Merging Lanes to drop some knowledge on you about all things transportation and air quality.

Nothin’ But ‘Net: EPA Shares Best of Air Quality Mobile Apps
Looking to expand your smartphone’s app library with something practical? The US Environmental Protection Agency has gathered the very best in apps to help you learn about and protect the environment via their “My Green Apps” portal. Want to calculate your carbon footprint or get a better read on your driving habits? Looking for filling stations that can handle alt fuel vehicles? Seeking air quality info or perhaps an impromptu ride across town? It’s all here for your smartphone. You can even suggest other useful green apps to add to the list. Worth a glance for new apps you can use.

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Clock Management: Xpress Bus Rider Turns Drive Time to “Me” Time
Congrats to Cassie W. from Jonesboro, winner of the Georgia Commute Options Facebook contest that asked green commuters to describe how they spend the time they reclaim on their daily commute to do the things they enjoy. According to Cassie, “I have rediscovered my love of books while riding the Xpress bus each day.” While you’re out and about later this week, look for her story on digital billboards around the region.

Way to go, Cassie! And when you’re ready to follow Cassie’s lead and reclaim up to an hour out of your day to do something other than stare at the red taillights ahead of you, you know where to find solutions.

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Foul Line: Tailpipes and Idling Vehicles Cited in New Study on Asthma
New research coming out of Europe explores the link between vehicle exhaust emissions and childhood asthma. While it is well-established that tailpipe fumes trigger episodic asthma attacks in young people, a study of 10 European cities found that children living near roads with higher concentrations of air pollution are 14% likelier to develop asthma. This has implications for everything from reshaping urban planning best practices to establishing more No-Idle zones.

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Parting Shot: Turn March Madness into April Sanity
If there were a bracket for less traffic and cleaner air, this is how it might look from our perspective:

When more people choose commute options, everybody comes out a winner.

Merge.

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."



Cutting down on air pollution benefits everyone and while it may seem to be a daunting task to make a difference in the air we all breathe, there are both easy and creative actions you can work into your routine. A number of small changes in different areas of your life can make a difference. The big results come when everyone is making such a contribution. 

  • Add more greenery to your office and home - the NASA Clean Air Study shows that there are many plants that will help remove airborne toxins. If you want to take this idea to the extreme, check this out: A 60 x 60 foot living billboard in the Philippines is made up of thousands of Fukien tea plants surrounding the curvy shape of a Coke bottle, expected to absorb a total of 46,800 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
  • Instead of buying bottled water, use your own reusable bottle to conserve energy and cut down on pollution. Additionally, if you bring your own mug to Starbucks, you’ll not only be conserving trees, you’ll receive $0.10 off your coffee.
  • When there’s nice weather, try doing an outdoor activity like hiking up Stone Mountain, riding your bike, or playing soccer with your kids to cut down energy usage in your home.
  • Watch sports with friends: the total decrease in U.S. home electricity usage during the Super Bowl is greater than three times the energy consumed by all the TVs watching it. Make sure to rally together for the next big game!
  • The majority of the pollution in our air comes from our tailpipes. Each workday in metro Atlanta, commuters participating in commute options programs help keep 550 tons of air pollution out of the air.
  • In an effort to reduce fly ash, produced during combustion of coal, as an environmental pollutant, the particles are being used to create building bricks. The manufacturing method saves energy, reduces mercury pollution, and costs 20% less than traditional clay brick manufacturing.

Air pollution, including ozone, is mainly a result of human activities, so it makes sense that we as individuals should do our part to make it better. Whether it’s simply making sure you turn off the lights when leaving a room, recycling, carpooling instead of driving alone, or getting involved with a larger scale project, you can make the choice to do something today to improve the air we all breathe. To learn more about what you can do, visit www.CleanAirCampaign.org/Your-Air-Quality-Transportation.

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 the "Stranger in a Strange Land." 



Georgia voters yesterday put in their two cents about the prospect of a penny sales tax to fund regional transportation projects.  The results at the polls amplify the situation brighter than a sea of brake lights at rush hour: many areas in the Peach State remain at a crossroads regarding transportation infrastructure needs and how to pay for them.  Welcome to the day after the T-SPLOST vote, where echoes of doubt – and a few hearty cheers – still reverberate in many places on an intricate plan that was meant to move Georgia’s transportation network forward.  This edition of Merging Lanes takes a closer look at the outcome in a couple of regions and how commuters may be affected. 

Atlanta Region Rejects T-SPLOST: Where do we go from here?

A huge pro-tax campaign with a message centered on relief from traffic in the form of an untied knot.  Opposition from an environmental group over the lack of transit options.  A late move to end the tolls on GA 400.  Like the Grateful Dead sang, “What a long, strange trip it’s been.”  No matter how you voted, one thing metro Atlantans still agree on is that traffic is a headache.  So what remedies are available now?  One sensible choice is to continue to work on scraping as much efficiency as we can out of the network we have.  That means finding more occasions to carpool, vanpool, telework or hop on a commuter coach.  The support resources to make this happen have been here all along.  We saw the Atlanta business community rally around the project list as a way to boost productivity by getting their workers out of traffic.  Now is a great time to apply some of this enthusiasm in the direction of commute options programs, because when employers support these efforts, employees sign up.

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Eyes on ATL: Other areas of the country watching the story

While Atlanta has treasures that make other cities green with envy – world’s busiest international airport, robust convention infrastructure and broadband all over, to name a few – the competition to attract new companies to the region remains as stiff as ever.  The larger region has netted some big-time wins in recent years.  But it has also swung and missed at a few opportunities, with traffic congestion cited in some cases as a deal-breaker.  Rejecting the referendum may provide more ammunition for rival cities to lob in our direction when courting out-of-state business.  One time-zone away, for example, rival Dallas shared these thoughts about the T-SPLOST outcome in Atlanta.  What deserves more attention is that some of the best programs anywhere to provide traffic relief are found right here, from Georgia NaviGAtor to HERO units and The Clean Air Campaign.  

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Yes Vote: In the River Valley, a political will to approve T-SPLOST

While the measure encountered rejection in most areas, a few, including the Chattahoochee Valley, approved it.  The project list for that district includes new roads, bridge repairs and even enhancements to the River Walk, along with new transit access points.  What sealed the deal for this region?  According to this story in the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, commuters and employers simply accepted that there was not enough funding for the projects they wanted in the timeframe they wanted without the T-SPLOST mechanism.  It's still important to keep the timeline for these projects in perspective.  Some smaller projects could begin as early as the spring of 2013, but the majority of the larger projects will begin later as funds become available, and are expected to take multiple years to complete.  While the region waits for these projects to come online, strategies like encouraging commute options are an important part of present-day plans and will continue to be in the future.

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Moving On: What Georgians learned through this process

If it accomplished nothing else, the intense dialog on both sides of the referendum helped educate Georgians about the current state of affairs on transportation infrastructure.  Our state ranks at the bottom for transportation spending per capita.  The current framework for the motor fuel tax only covers roads and bridges.  Metro Atlanta traffic sucks away $2.5 billion annually from employers in lost productivity.  And while the voting base is more informed today about the size of the elephant in the room, the challenge still remains to find a long-term, sustainable funding solution that Georgians believe in.  But no matter what shape that solution might take in the future, the mission of The Clean Air Campaign and its partner organizations does not change.  Clean Air Campaign programs and resources help Georgia’s commuters protect their transportation investments against overuse.  While the conversation today is about which projects are going to get built or not, stewardship of existing resources never goes out of fashion.  

Merge.



This past Wednesday, employees from many Atlanta area employers and property managers met to exchange ideas on how to build and find more success with commute options programs. The Best Practices seminar is part of The Clean Air Campaign’s ongoing Employer Program Education Series where attendees have earned their MBA (Master’s In Better Air) and most recently, achieved Summa Commuter Laude status at the Best Practices Seminar.

The Clean Air Campaign’s Executive Director, Tedra Cheatham, opened the workshop, and was followed by presenters Sonny Longo from Kimberly-Clark Corporation and John Plunkett with Cobb EMC. Both guest speakers spoke of the challenges that are often faced with gaining upper management support and employee education, and the innovative ways to break though those challenges.

The most beneficial aspect to the seminar was allowing the attendees to discuss and learn within their breakout groups. Some of the most popular ways of gaining employee participation within each employers commute option program that were discussed were:

  • Providing information to employees at hire new orientations and benefit fairs
  • Introducing their programs as an extension of their wellness program
  • Offering “preferred parking” to those who carpool or vanpool
  • Promoting ZipCar as a way to get to and from mid-day meetings for those who take transit to work
  • Offering on-site showers for anyone who walks, runs or bikes to work
  • Providing alternative work arrangements such as teleworking or compressed work weeks

Many of the employers and property managers have been inspired to implement creative approaches to promoting their programs:

  • Encouraging clean commute competitions between departments or buildings by determining who logged the most clean commutes (riding transit, carpooling, vanpooling, walking, biking or teleworking) over a period of time. Winners were awarded with prizes like ice cream sundae parties.
  • Displaying poster sized maps showing where employees live as a springboard to get carpool and vanpool conversations started.
  • A parking spot at Atlantic Station was converted into a miniature park, complete with grass, benches and even a lemonade stand. This helped show what could be in its place if as many parking spaces weren’t necessary. 
  • A hotel extended their shuttle schedule route and hours to run more frequently during peak rush hour times to help guests and staff get to their destinations quicker

The Clean Air Campaign can assist you in developing your commute options programs into something greater by:

  • Providing incentives for those who use alternatives to driving alone
  • Offering email blasts reminding employees the programs are available
  • Providing educational materials and resources to explain the link between traffic and air quality
  • Assisting you in planning educational events, such as Lunch and Learns, for your employees

For more information about how you can implement a commute options program or improve your current program, please contact us.