The Clean Air Campaign, together with Governor Deal and employers from the public and private sector, is excited to kick off the third-annual Georgia Telework Week, taking place August 20-24, 2012. Join us in celebrating the success of telework across the state as a pollution-free commute option and an effective workplace strategy.
Governor Deal proclaims third-annual Georgia Telework Week
Pictured from L-R: Tedra Cheatham, The Clean Air Campaign; Mac Peden, ADP; Michelle Higgins, Ista; Governor Nathan Deal; Rosa Vichcales, Humana; Sadler Croft, The Clean Air Campaign; Luiz Montoro, The Coca-Cola Company
Metro Atlanta and surrounding cities continue to grow and prosper, which in turn brings more traffic to our region. A solution has proven to be successful in not only reducing traffic congestion, but also increasing employee productivity and morale, as well as company retention and reputation; this is telework, and next week kicks off the third-annual Georgia Telework Week, which seeks to build awareness about teleworking success across the state.
Since 2007, teleworking has increased among metro Atlanta commuters 20%. This growing trend allows employees more flexibility. Teleworkers enjoy this alternative because of the huge savings on fuel, clothing, food and even shaving supplies. Employers are using it to increase in productivity by as much as 20%, and reduce overhead costs anywhere from 10% to 90%. Here are some anecdotal examples that reinforce the notion that it’s not about where work gets done, but it’s about getting work done:
- One teleworker spends half of his one telework day a week at home and the other half at a restaurant with two other coworkers. They have found that they have fewer distractions than being at the office, but are still able to collaborate on projects.
- Another’s company headquarters is in a different state so he is a teleworker 100% of the time, only visiting the main office two or three times a year. His company pays for office space at a telework center so he can still have the structure of an office environment. It has a mix of private offices and workstations and provides internet, meeting space, IT and administrative support and coffee, all for people who telework.
- A teleworker in Atlanta has been working from home since 2001 for five different companies. He once turned down a job that would have required him to work from the office and instead accepted an offer that has explicit permission to continue teleworking.
- One commuter currently teleworks two days per week and hopes to be teleworking 5 days a week by the end of the year. She says not driving through traffic helps reduce her stress, which improves her overall health.
- A teleworker reports 50% of his company to be teleworkers. He’s in the office a total of two weeks every year for meetings and it’s never more than three days in a row.
All teleworkers will tell you they enjoy it because there are generally less distractions, greater flexibility, more time for sleep, fuel savings, and that the best commute is no commute.
Anecdotal examples credited to Reddit.com/r/Atlanta
So it’s back-to-school time, which means that Clean Air Schools programs are gearing up to bring the pursuit of less traffic and cleaner air to the younger set. Since children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of air pollution, the effort to improve air quality within school zones is an important one. But what does clean commuting look like in a school setting?
Actually, The Clean Air Campaign’s school programs are pretty similar to our employer and commuter tools. Where workplace commuters are encouraged to carpool, take public transit, and enforce No Idling, school commuters have Pool to School, Ride the Bus! for Clean Air, and…well, No Idling.
Last year, more than 300 Georgia schools participated in Clean Air Schools programs—giving an estimated 600,000 students, parents and teachers the chance to breathe better, cleaner air at school. And this year, we’re looking to promote student involvement and leadership, both in the existing programs and through a couple newer initiatives designed with younger leaders in mind.
One of those newer tools is Breathe Easy, a series of toolkits that guide elementary and middle school students through leading a No Idling, Pool to School or Ride the Bus program in their schools. Similarly, our high school Get There Green program charges student groups with developing a sustainable transportation plan that addresses the congestion and air quality issues in their school community. And the new online platform OnAir (blogonair.org), launched last spring, encourages teens to take individual action by allowing them to rack up “AirCreds,” points for air-friendly actions.
School programs offer the chance to help kids form clean-air habits early, habits we hope will stick with them throughout their lives. If you’d like to learn more, visit cleanaircampaign.org/schools or send us an e-mail at Schools@cleanaircampaign.org.
Note: Registration is now open for all Clean Air Schools programs, available for pre-K through 12th grade. Join us today!
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.
Lane ends 2,000 feet.
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.
Lane ends 1,000 feet.
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.
Lane ends 500 feet.
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.
Traffic isn’t just a nuisance; it increases pollution and can make cities less competitive. New transportation strategies continue to be put in place to help redistribute the demand for space and time on roadways. Strategies to incorporate more access and connectivity to transit carry the potential to deliver better environmental outcomes, improved public health, stronger communities and more prosperous and livable cities.
Hong Kong, China
90% of travelling is done by mass transit, the highest rate in the world, moving commuters by rail, buses, bikes, ferries, air transport and cable cars. The 7 million daily riders have access to an “Octopus Card,” which is their transit pass, and also accepted as currency at parking meters, convenience stores and fast food restaurants.
Our state, along with others across the nation, has borrowed concepts from the mainstream transit planning from countries that have notably the best transit systems in the world. By modeling plans from the best, Denver, New York, San Francisco, and Portland are regarded by many as the top transit cities in the country. Future hopes and conceptual plans to build more transit infrastructure across Georgia have many sources worldwide from which to draw inspiration.
Heading into the Independence Day holiday week, several regions in Georgia have been dealing with sizzling temperatures that have triggered Smog Alerts to warn of unhealthy outdoor air quality. Here's a quick review of what has been going on the past few days and what we might expect for the week ahead:
The capital region logged its first Code Purple day in many years on Friday, June 29, indicating air quality was very unhealthy for all. There were also Code Orange days (unhealthy for sensitive groups) on Saturday, June 30 and on the first day of July. More unhealthy conditions are predicted for July 2. While the region has experienced many shades of unhealthy air in the past few days, the belief is that the Code Purple and Code Red conditions last Thursday and Friday were more exception than rule. Nonetheless, it's important to reach a little deeper into the suggested actions to help reduce air pollution. In addition to using commute options, look for ways to curb unnecessary idling, defer on yardwork projects involving gas-powered tools, combine errands and stay informed about air quality conditions.
Other Areas in Georgia
The Augusta area logged a couple of Code Orange days over the weekend. Macon and Athens also each encountered Code Orange conditions. With regard to weather patterns, many cities around Georgia approached all-time record-high temperatures in recent days. While we all continue to wait for a change in weather conditions, it's important to stay hydrated, stay informed about air quality and stay mindful of the actionable ways you can help reduce air pollution.
Bringing an inauspicious start to the weekend, unhealthy concentrations of ground-level ozone are predicted in a few regions across Georgia today, which could create breathing challenges for people. Smog Alerts were distributed for Atlanta, Augusta and Macon.
The Friday forecast issued by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division for the Atlanta region indicates air quality may reach into Code Red, an indication that ozone levels could be unhealthy for everyone. If it comes to pass, this would mark the first Code Red day experienced in Atlanta in two years. The combination of sweltering heat plus tailpipe emissions and stagnant air may have an impact on a wider cross-section of the population, triggering the advisory to limit outdoor physical activity.
Atlanta may not be the only region battling unhealthy conditions, as Augusta and Macon are also each under a Code Orange advisory for today, indicating conditions are expected to be unhealthy for sensitive groups that include children, the elderly and those with acute respiratory illnesses. Suggestions for these groups also include limiting prolonged exertion outside.
Find helpful tips here on things you can do now to reduce air pollution. If you're planning to be outdoors, keep watch over family and friends to make sure they don't overexert themselves, and build in lots of water breaks. Stay cool and stay informed about forecasts for the next few days while we all try to find relief from this heat wave.
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.
June 21st marks the 7th annual National Dump the Pump Day. Across the country, commuters are being encouraged to hang up their car keys and ride transit instead. Participants will see how transit can help make a daily commute easier and less stressful, and save money on gas and car upkeep.
According to APTA’s recent Transit Saving Report, a two-person household can save, on average, more than $10,000 a year by downsizing to one car. The estimate is based on current gas prices, monthly parking rates and a person purchasing a 30-day Breeze Pass for MARTA.
On Wednesday the 13th, MARTA held an awareness event at the Five Points station promoting Dump the Pump Day. The Atlanta Dream mascot, Star, made an appearance, along with a prize wheel where spinners had a chance to win Breeze Cards, Atlanta Dream tickets and tons of other prizes. The event encouraged current MARTA riders to spread the word about the Dump the Pump Day.
- In 2011, Americans took 10.4 billion trips on transit
- Using transit is the quickest way to beat high gas prices
- Transit has a proven record of reducing congestion
- In 2010, U.S. transit use saved 796 million hours in travel time and 303 million gallons of fuel in 439 urban areas
- A single commuter switching his or her commute to transit can reduce a household’s carbon emission by 10%
MARTA runs 5 AM to 1:30 AM Monday through Friday and 5 AM to 12:30 AM on weekends and holidays. Click here to see the MARTA transit and which bus or rail station is most convenient for you. If MARTA doesn't work for your commute, maybe Cobb County Transit (CCT), Gwinnett County Transit (GCT) or GRTA Xpress will work for you.
On July 31, commuters in metro Atlanta and around the state have the opportunity to vote on a referendum that will fund transportation improvements through a regional one percent sales tax.
In the Atlanta metro area, The Atlanta Regional Commission has announced plans to host a series of 12 interactive sessions via phone over six evenings in June – beginning next week – to help voters understand what projects are on the list and how the penny tax would impact their communities.
According to ARC Chairman Tad Leithead’s opinion piece in the Saporta Report, the format for these sessions draws inspiration from one of FDR’s “fireside chats” 70 years ago.
Franklin Roosevelt gave what has become known as the “Map Speech” at one of his fireside chats. In anticipation of his radio address he asked all Americans to buy world maps. The response was overwhelming and actually created a shortage of maps across the United States. Millions of citizens listened to the President’s address on February 23, 1942, in which he detailed the progress of the wars both in Europe and in the Pacific, while citizens used their maps to follow along at home.
Fast forward to 2012, and the Atlanta Regional Commission is adapting this idea for the 21st century by organizing a series of Wireside Chats. These hour-long telephone conversations will feature a brief overview of the proposed transportation projects, and a Q&A forum.
Local officials will be on the phone to answer questions during each chat. In order to participate, commuters can simply register their name and phone number at www.wiresidechats.com. According to the website, ARC pledges not to share the contact information of any participants. Several days ahead of the chat, commuters will receive email reminders with a project map attached. The night of the scheduled chat, citizens will be called at the number they registered and have the opportunity to ask questions. Everyone who asks a question will receive an answer, even if it wasn’t answered live during the call.