This is an ideal time to reflect on the past year and look ahead with anticipation to the future. We know what stories made headlines in 2008 as they relate to The Clean Air Campaign's mission. Here are a few themes that defined 2008 as they relate to you:
$4 a gallon gas stormed onto the scene and made it financially painful to drive. None of us knew if the price would ever come back down, so many of us started to use alternatives like carpooling, riding transit, teleworking, vanpooling, even bicycling to work. The Clean Air Campaign had a breakthrough year as a result, with enrollment in our incentive programs up three times over the levels achieved in 2007.
This unprecedented demand for access to our financial incentives is a reflection of the economic challenges more commuters and employers are facing as we all come to grips with the recession. It's also the reason The Clean Air Campaign and its partner organizations have made a business decision to change the maximum payout of our $3 a day incentive that rewards solo drivers who make the switch to an alternative commute. Effective January 1, 2009 the cap for this incentive will change from $180 to $100 so that more commuters can take advantage of this popular program, which is now entering its eighth year.
Despite tougher air quality standards, metro Atlanta experienced fewer smog days than in 2007. In all, there were 29 days when conditions either reached unhealthy levels for sensitive groups (Code Orange, 25 days)) or unhealthy levels for all (Code Red, 4 days). But if the region were still under the old standard for measurement -- as we were in 2007 -- it is likely that we would have only observed 15 smog days.
Are the actions of Georgia commuters moving the needle on air quality? Too early to tell. Although the region has been coping with a prolonged drought, the late summer brought unusually cooler temperatures and conditions that were less conducive to allow ground-level ozone to form. But the impact of gas prices meant fewer cars on the road -- and fewer tailpipes contributing to poor air quality.
Quality of Life
A study of traffic in major metro areas ranked Atlanta's as the second most painful commute, behind only Los Angeles. Not a designation to boast about, but it's easy to see why traffic is such a grind here: the average roundtrip daily commute in metro Atlanta takes 72 minutes to complete. We're giving up meaningful time we could be spending with loved ones, pursuing hobbies, advancing our interests.
One finding from this study reveals 40% of Atlanta respondents indicated they had intentionally skipped a car trip because of expected traffic. Does that sound like you?
"Father Time" is performing a somewhat symbolic gesture this New Year's Eve before the clock ticks down on 2008. One second will be added to 2008 in order to rebalance a small discrepancy with the atomic clock kept by the scientific community. We get one extra second to enjoy life. How will you spend it? Here's hoping you don't have to spend it behind the wheel stuck in traffic.
In the spirit of the season, we decided to pay homage to one of the most well-known holiday poems, “The Night Before Christmas.” Putting a special twist on the classic rhyme, we call this version “The Commute Before Christmas.”
‘Twas the nighttime commute and all through the town,
The holiday traffic had everyone down.
No commuters in cars were moving at all,
They just sat still behind the miles-long traffic wall.
Horns were all honking, there was no spreading cheer,
As everyone shouted, “Let’s get outta here!”
“I wished I had carpooled,” lamented a driver,
“I know that decision would have been much wiser.”
Forget all this waiting and sitting alone,
We could be teleworking from the comfort of home.
“I think I’ll try it,” one driver said,
And enjoy a short commute from the desk to the bed.
Watching the MARTA train breeze quickly past,
The drivers all wished that they could move that fast.
We’ll never get anywhere with all these cars on the road,
We’ve got to do something to ease up the load.
Then a bright idea popped into their heads:
Let’s all try taking a clean commute instead!
I hear you save money and clean up the air,
Sounds like a great way to show the planet we care.
“We all discovered,” the drivers shouted with glee
“That clean commuting is best for the holidays you see!”
You beat all the traffic and save lots of time,
You don’t get frustrated while waiting in line.
We save lots of gas and earn extra cash too,
With Cash for Commuters they’ll pay you, it’s true!
Carpool, take transit – earn $3 a day
The savings add up and can go a long way.
What are you waiting for, give it a try,
You’ll smile as you kiss all the traffic goodbye.
If Santa could try it you know what he’d say,
“I love clean commuting, it’s the best way!”
From all of us at The Clean Air Campaign, we wish you and your family a happy (and traffic-free) holiday season.
The holidays are a time of reflection for many people. So, speaking in terms of commuting and sustainability, what stands out to you about 2008? And what, if anything, are you going to do differently next year? Weigh in on this blog and take our latest web poll. We'd love to hear your thoughts.
With the nation’s economy experiencing so many interrelated failures, investors in the stock market have experienced the equivalent of a financial root canal. After feeling that huge jolt of pain, people are devoting their attention to two things:
1. Making the best use of the resources they have
2. Finding a safe place to get a good return on their investment
It’s no different for policymakers in Georgia, as they come to grips with the challenge of fixing what is regarded as the nation’s second-worst traffic on a shoestring budget.
Enter the state’s transportation task force and the “Investing in Tomorrow’s Transportation Today” (IT3) initiative. IT3 is the state’s vision for better mobility in the future. But the realities of the statewide funding shortfall today dictate how far the plan can go. That’s why the focus of IT3 is unquestionably on getting the biggest bang for the buck.
A report issued in late-November provided a glimpse into the “return on investment” of different activities. What was found to move the needle the most on improving mobility? Getting cars off the roads and rethinking the daily commute.
Spending $220 million on demand management initiatives like telework, flexible work arrangements and other programs that make an immediate impact on reducing traffic is projected to yield $40 billion in reduced congestion costs over the next 30 years.
By comparison, spending $26 billion (that’s billion with a “b”) on new infrastructure is projected to yield the same $40 billion result.
Certainly the state needs to invest heavily in new transportation options as the population continues to surge. But the reality is that we cannot afford to wait years for new projects to come online. While the state sorts through funding options for transportation, the IT3 task force’s findings confirm that we must concentrate on making the best use of the resources we have.
So, where do you think the smart money is? More commuter rail? Expanded telework options for employees? More carpooling incentives? Post your ideas and be part of the conversation.