In a banner year that brought high gas prices, traffic angst and environmental sustainability to the forefront, an unprecedented number of commuters, employers and schools chose to become part of the solution.
The past 10 months seem to have gone by in dog years. Somewhere in the maelstrom of activity, more Georgians found relief from the high cost of commuting and from poor air quality. For The Clean Air Campaign and its partners, 2008 has been a year of noteworthy accomplishments. Here is our top 5 list of landmark success stories so far this year:
- With a 3X increase over 2007, the regional incentive program that pays commuters $3 a day to use alternatives provided relief from soaring prices at the pump.
- Twice as many employers joined The Clean Air Campaign this year compared to the same period in 2007. Today, some 1,500 employers are Partners of either The Clean Air Campaign or one of Atlanta’s nine transportation management associations.
- In 2008, awareness of The Clean Air Campaign’s efforts expanded beyond metro Atlanta’s borders, positioning Georgia as a national leader in commute options programs. These success stories were touted nationally by the likes of NBC, CBS, CNN, Forbes and USA Today.
- Nearly 60 schools in metro Atlanta signed on to be Clean Air Schools, representing more than 40,000 students.
- In March, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency strengthened air quality standards to better protect public health. Metro Atlanta braced for more bad air days. But during the 2008 smog season, metro Atlanta experienced 29 violations for ozone, fewer than last year despite the more stringent standards.
So what does all this mean for the region? Each day, with support from the area's nine transportation management associations, The Clean Air Campaign's programs eliminate at least 1.2 million vehicle miles of travel and keep 600 tons of pollution out of the air. But we know there's so much more we can do. It starts by creating more conversations with more commuters, employers and schools.
So, what do you think the region needs to do in order to double these results? Weigh in and let us know.
The 2008 PACE Awards are upon us, recognizing metro Atlanta's outstanding workplaces for commuters. This event brings together public and private sector leaders to celebrate creative solutions that reduce traffic and improve air quality.
And while many of these initiatives work their way down from management to the commuting workforce, there are a growing number of individuals whose inspired actions truly stand out -- even if it's not in their job description -- making them champions for our cause. One such individual is Paige Medina, Immigration Practice Group Billing Liaison at Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP and last year's recipient of the PACE Commuter Champion Award. The Clean Air Campaign caught up with Paige to find out what drives her support of commute options.
Q: You’ve been clean commuting for more than a decade. Why do you do it?
A: At the request of the City of Atlanta, I initially started commuting during the 1996 Olympics to help reduce traffic. It turned out to be a better alternative for me in terms of time (fighting traffic!) and costs, so I continued.
Q: What motivates you to bring commute options into your employer worksite?
A: I have three motivating factors: (1) I think it is very important to improve our air quality. (2) The traffic congestion during the morning and evening commute has become increasingly worse, making driving to work really time consuming and stressful. (3) Commuting has helped me save money, which everyone wants to do! After sharing my knowledge of alternative ways to commute, others become interested. When they decide to take a closer look and improve their commute as I have done, it motivates me!
Q: What have the results been like in terms of employee adoption of commute alternatives at your firm?
A: By providing them information when I find interest, I've counted 12 single-occupancy-vehicle "converts" so far that I have been able to assist with improving their commute.
Q: You were nominated for and received a PACE Award for your efforts. How does it feel to be recognized, and what do you remember about that event?
A: I was unaware that such an award existed, so when I received the email, I was quite surprised! It was an honor to be recognized for my efforts and for sharing my knowledge with others. It felt great to be able to speak in front of a group of over 600 people, who share a common goal: improving our air quality and traffic congestion. It feels good to know that my contributions make a difference.
Q: What has been the biggest hurdle to overcome in getting your colleagues to use alternatives to driving alone?
A: People have a huge dependence on their cars for the flexibility and convenience that they provide. Realistically, most alternatives would require a compromise of that flexibility and convenience. Additionally, it's unfortunate that
people don't have more confidence in Atlanta's public transportation system when it comes to routes, schedules, safety, timeliness and cleanliness. I find these to be the biggest hurdles to overcome.
Terrific insight from a person who leads by example. The region needs more Paige Medinas to roll up their sleeves and motivate others to tame traffic so we can breathe easier. And we'll bring more people like her across the stage on Thursday, October 16 at the PACE Awards. In the meantime, let's start some dialog on who the champions are at your workplace and what they're doing to make a difference. Chime in ... and come back soon to meet the 2008 PACE Award winners.