Labor Day weekend is almost upon us, which for downtown Atlanta commuters means the people-watching will be exquisite this week.  That’s because DragonCon is coming to town, offering a rare sci-fi/fantasy taste of Halloween and Mardi Gras all mashed up. One of this intrepid blogger’s favorite all-time green commuting memories is riding MARTA downtown a few DragonCons ago sitting next to a garrison of storm troopers. Even the “dark side” favors alternative transportation. Enjoy this latest installment of Merging Lanes, and may the force be with you.    

Ni Hao, Y’all: Clean Air Campaign Story Draws Interest from Chinese Delegation

Many similarities exist between metro Atlanta and major metro areas in China. Population growth, infrastructure build-out, Olympic moments and air pollution have in some ways become the ties that bind these two regions. So, when a delegation of Chinese diplomats and non-profit leaders came through town to find out more about how we deal with air quality issues, The Clean Air Campaign jumped at the opportunity to host a meeting and share a success story nearly two decades in the making. What was neat to observe in this sharing of ideas across two hemispheres was that the Chinese are interested in using both regulatory and voluntary actions together to tackle their systemic smog issues. They were keenly interested in hearing about the messaging and the adoption of programs  in schools, but their experience differed in that the delegation felt adults needed to take the lead in educating young people about idling, while The Clean Air Campaign has used somewhat the opposite approach, passing the message up through young people. While this was The Clean Air Campaign’s first foray into international business, here’s hoping that some of the concepts shared with our new friends can be put to good use, in China and elsewhere.     

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On Making Bicycle Commuting More Attractive to Women

Interesting read from the League of American Bicyclists about how to make the option more accessible and comfortable to women. The experience abroad is that women adopt bicycling at a far greater rate than stateside: women account for 55% of all bike trips in the Netherlands and 49% in Germany, but the number is only 24% in the USA. What’s missing here? The report points to a need for more infrastructure like buffered lanes, more women leaders in a manufacturing and retail industry that skews heavily male and more access to the know-how about bicycling for starters. There is a great opportunity coming up in metro Atlanta in just a few short weeks to get more women into bicycle commuting. Watch for more info soon on the second-annual Bike to Work Challenge … which incidentally was won last year by a female.

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Going New School: Clean Air Schools Introduces New Ways to Participate

The Clean Air Schools program has successfully grown across Georgia through creative partnerships that bring classrooms and community resources closer together. More than 300 schools have taken part in activities such as establishing No-Idle zones, contributing innovative ideas through the Get There Green competition and even hosting a “clean commute” week. One of the neatest things to see about the multitude of programs offered is the entrepreneurial approach that many schools have taken with tailoring programs to fit their personalities. Now, through a fresh approach to defining participation, Georgia K-12 schools have more ways to get started or ramp up their involvement. With school back in session everywhere in the state, now is a great time to get signed up and reach for the stars.           

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Sidewalk Talk: New Series Profiles Midtown ATLiens Who Choose to Walk/Bike

When it comes to hanging out, working and playing in Atlanta’s chic Midtown district, the best way to appreciate your surroundings is on foot. That’s the message from Midtown residents who choose to put down roots there for the walkability and bikability. Take a scan though these stories about people who are car-free or car-lite and loving the experience.  

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."



At The Clean Air Campaign, we believe all Georgia residents can benefit from better air quality. However, if you are part of the estimated 25.9 million Americans who currently have asthma, better air quality would make an even bigger difference in your life.

Things to know about Asthma:

  1. Asthma is chronic. This means it is a part of your everyday life.
  2. Asthma can be very serious, even life threatening.
  3. There is no cure for asthma, but it can be managed so that you can live a normal, healthy life.

To learn more about asthma, check out this video!

By making the connection between air quality and asthma, we can take the appropriate steps toward protecting those who are affected most.

What can you do?

While air quality is improving in Georgia, thanks to a combination of regulatory controls and voluntary programs, like Georgia Commute Options, there’s still more work to do. Your small actions can make a difference in the air we 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.”



Back to school checklist: buy some new kicks, get a haircut, and register for the Clean Air Schools program.

BAIR and the Clean Air Schools team spent all summer interviewing past participants and working with teachers to improve the way schools can share the clean air message within their communities. And just in the nick of time – 25% of morning traffic can be attributed to school-related travel according to our partners at Georgia Safe Routes to School.

How are your students getting to school? Have you considered a school bus try-it week or our new online ridematch tool for schools? Elementary and middle school students can lead the way with the Breathe Easy toolkits, and high school students can compete in the award-winning Get There Green transportation challenge.

We love hearing about how schools are getting creative for clean air. And we figured it was time to spread the CAS love a bit beyond the our original programs, so we've added even more ways to make it onto the Clean Air Schools roster with Star Levels. These new partnership levels allow schools to participate to their ability year in and year out. This new design recognizes all kinds of clean air efforts in schools. We’ve still got all the programs you know and love—and now, even more opportunities for your school to be recognized for all its hard work. 

You can follow what the Clean Air Schools champions are up to by joining the Facebook group. Our team would love to visit your school this year to help support your initiative and promote clean air in your school community. We are also available anytime to help with planning or problem-solving. Contact us at 678-244-7726 or schools@cleanaircampaign.org.

Joey Giunta is the School Partnerships Manager for The Clean Air Campaign. Since 2008, over 560 schools have participated in the schools program. When he isn't visiting schools throughout the region, Joey commutes into town on MARTA and spends that free time reading a new book every other week. 



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."



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.



As the days grow longer and warmer, those across metro Atlanta recognize the arrival of summer. However, hand-in-hand with the bathing suits and barbeques is the likelihood of thick smog that settles over the city. While the early results show a forgiving start to spring and summer, air quality can change when temperatures rise and mix the sunlight and heat with vehicle exhaust emissions.

Smog is a mixture of air pollutants that are harmful to environmental and human health. In Georgia, two pollutants that present challenges are ground-level ozone and particle pollution. Not everyone is equally as susceptible to the negative effects of poor air quality, but it is important to understand who is at risk.

Luckily, The Clean Air Campaign is here to help! Expert forecasters issue Smog Alert advisories on days when the concentrations of air pollution are expected to reach unhealthy levels. Below is a guide about how to understand smog alerts:

Air pollution is not just an issue for metro Atlanta residents wishing to cycle The Beltline or picnic in Piedmont Park, but for other species around the world as well. An article published by The Independent, discusses how greenhouse gasses are turning Arctic seawater toxic for many species of marine life. Although it is hard to imagine life in the Arctic Ocean when temperatures are soaring here in Georgia, it is helpful to remember that poor air quality affects us all, and the more we learn about how pollution can affect the air we breathe, the more pressing the need to act.

For more information about air quality watch this video created by The Clean Air Campaign.

Sarah Wilgus is a Commuter Services Coordinator at The Clean Air Campaign. As a MARTA rider, she uses her commute time to listen to “Spotify” and catch up on social networking.



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." 



So Far, So Green: Cooler ATL Spring Temps Yield Relief from Air Pollution
No two years are identical when it comes to measuring the quality of the air we all breathe. And if it feels like metro Atlanta has experienced a cooler/wetter start to spring in 2013, here’s some data to back it up. Rainfall totals for April 2013 in ATL were twice that of April 2012. And a closer look inside the numbers for air quality shows that the past two months have been somewhat gentler on our lungs compared to the same period in 2012. The ratio of Code Green to Code Yellow observed days for ground-level ozone during April and May 2013 sits at around 2:1, while last year was flipped around with more than twice as many Code Yellow observances as Code Green. Here’s hoping that air quality remains healthy as summer beckons.

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In Pictures: Vanpoolooza Party at Cumberland
From May through August, the Atlanta region is celebrating Vanpoolooza, expressing the joys of riding stress-free to work in a vanpool. Ask most vanpool riders and they will describe their good times together as a party on wheels. And with more than commuter 400 vans on the road across Georgia, there is a strong vanpool presence in the Peach State … with lots more room to grow. That was the message to guests at an open house event in the Cumberland area. The proof is in the pictures that a good time was had by all.

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BBQ Ban: Beijing Policymakers Propose Ban on Grilling to Help Air Quality
This would not go over well in America as we head into Memorial Day Weekend. According to this article, in a desperate move to beat back smog that has gripped Beijing off and on for many months, policymakers are looking at stricter permitting for outdoor barbecue stands to reduce fine particle pollution. The sentiment from some in China suggests that when it comes to air pollution, there are bigger fish to fry … or rather, grill … like cars and trucks. Perhaps the George Foreman Grill - which is shown on a number of online retailers as being manufactured in China - would be an acceptable substitute?

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Out and About: Springtime Brings Outdoor Fun to Belt Line Eastside Trail
Determined to recapture some modicum of physical fitness, this intrepid blogger recently joined a few colleagues for a bike tour along the newly-opened Belt Line Eastside Trail. The ride was great and the sights amazing, as this signature project continues to develop faster than many of us may realize. From the skateboarders tearing it up at Historic Fourth Ward Park to the moms out for a stroll with their babies, it’s clear that the Belt Line offers a great excuse for anybody to be outside. And as this video shows - from the perspective of a colleague’s handlebar-mounted video camera - you never know what neat things you might encounter as you’re navigating the trail.

 

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."



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