Posts tagged with smog season
There’s a lot going on right now in the world of mass transit, and sadly, it’s looking bleak. In metro Atlanta, C-TRAN’s service ended last week, which affected 8,500 commuters, many of whom depend on public transportation. More cuts are looming for MARTA when the calendar clicks over to the new fiscal year on July 1, 2010. However, we’re not alone. Mass transit agencies across the country are facing budget crises. According to the American Public Transportation Association, eight out of 10 bus and subway agencies are raising fares and cutting service or considering those actions. The timing couldn’t be worse with smog season just weeks away.
Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix for these issues. But there is an influential group out there that needs to find its voice. When more employers in the region show state and local government how important mass transit is for their commuting employees, then perhaps transit won’t continue to be one of the first items on the chopping block when’s there’s a budget shortfall.
What do you think about the local service cuts? Tell us your ideas for how we all can work together to save mass transit in the Atlanta region.
It goes without saying that The Clean Air Campaign’s staff works hard to serve Georgia employers, commuters and schools. Like any job, the satisfaction you get out of it is directly related to the effort you put into it. And in many ways for our team, the motivation for less traffic and cleaner air comes from the fun activities that are made more enjoyable when we can have clearer skies under which to play.
Mark Poole, a Commuter Services Coordinator with just over two years of service at The Clean Air Campaign, gets to enjoy the respiratory fruits of his labor out on the fields almost every weekend with his Ultimate Frisbee team, Chain Lightning. This fall, Mark’s team won the national title at the 2009 Ultimate Players’ Association Championships. We caught up with Mark to learn more about his exploits on the field and why he’s motivated to work for less traffic and cleaner air.
Q: How did you become interested in Ultimate Frisbee?
A: I got turned on to it in college after hearing about it from one of my professors, who played on a travel team. I’ve been playing for about five years and never imagined I’d get a chance to compete at a championship level. I just love playing the game and where it has taken me.
Q: How do you play Ultimate Frisbee?
A: We play seven on seven on a field with two end zones. The object is to score by passing the disc into the end zone and there are offensive and defensive teams, which switch back and forth based on possession. The game is non-contact and it’s self-officiated. Depending on the game setup and tournament rules, the first team to score 15 points wins.
Q: What’s the pace of the game and the overall vibe?
A: I play in a competitive men’s league, but there are also recreational leagues and co-ed leagues all over the world. We always strive to have a friendly competition. The fact that games are self-officiated means we are committed to good sportsmanship. It’s not uncommon to share a beer with our competition after a game.
Q: As an outdoor sport, what do you enjoy about Ultimate Frisbee?
A: Being active and playing outside is very important to me. The season runs from May to November. Coincidentally, that’s almost in line with Smog Season in Georgia. So of course I want to have clean air to breathe in. It’s a great experience to be able to run around under blue skies and soak in the sunshine. But it can also be fulfilling to play in other weather conditions because it adds variety.
Q: How much work goes into competing on an Ultimate Frisbee squad?
A: I run and train at the track every week. My team practices almost every weekend for a few hours on Saturday and Sunday. We put a lot of work into our game. We’ve got 26 guys on our team. Some are serious. Some are laid back. We always have fun, but we know how to get focused and win.
Q: Besides air, what goes into the physics of throwing a Frisbee?
A: Spin keeps a Frisbee aloft. The more spin, the farther, flatter and faster the disc will travel. It takes a good snap of the wrist to get spin. And there are different angles you need to choose when you’re passing to teammates across the field.
Q: Where has Chain Lightning competed?
A: It’s amazing where we’ve traveled to play against other teams in tournaments around the country. We’ve been to Seattle, Santa Cruz, Washington D.C., Baton Rouge, Austin, Florida and all over the Southeast.
Q: And most recently you were in Sarasota, FL competing at the nationals. What was that like?
A: We represented the Southeast region at the national championships, which is a four-day tournament. We went in as the #2 seed and faced off against the #1 seed from San Francisco in the finals. The weather was uncharacteristically hot for Florida in late-October and we were thoroughly tired from all the games leading up to the finals. But we were playing great defense the whole tournament and knew we could stand up to them with aggressive defensive play. Playing in a championship game was such an adrenaline rush. We were amped up to have made it so far. Chain Lightning is the first champion in history to come out of the Southeast.
Q: Congrats on taking home the trophy. What’s the next big quest for Chain Lightning?
A: We’ll compete in July 2010 at the World Ultimate Club Championships in Prague, Czech Republic.
Q: Where can Georgians interested in learning about Ultimate Frisbee learn more?
Congrats to Mark and his team for their big win. What do you do you like to do outdoors – now or in any season – that gets you motivated to protect the air we breathe?
It's early October, which means harvest time is on the way. And The Clean Air Campaign has transportation and air quality news by the bushel. So, slip on your work gloves and reap what we've sown in the latest edition of Merging Lanes.
Smog Season Wrap Up: Sigh of Relief
The 2009 Smog Season concluded last week and, amazingly, was one of the quietest for ground-level ozone in the past decade. To be sure, Georgia caught a big break. The final tally for unhealthy air days -- 18 across the state, with 16 of those days occurring in metro Atlanta -- was aided by more rainfall, cooler temperatures and slightly windier conditions. What really stands out is that the 2009 Smog Season never brought a Code Red day. The 18 smog days we experienced were all within the Code Orange range. Ground-level ozone is less likely to form outside the period between May and September. But stay on your toes, because particle pollution is a year-round problem in Georgia, creating more risks to respiratory health.
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Ground-Level Ozone Standards Revisited
The Environmental Protection Agency is charged with establishing and updating "national ambient air quality standards" to protect public health and welfare. In March of 2008, the EPA rolled out a new standard for ground-level ozone that was tougher than the previous standard. The rationale for tightening the standard was that scientific evidence suggested exposure to ground-level ozone at lower concentrations still posed a significant health hazard. While the business community reacted with concern that the revised standards were too strict, health and environmental advocates were concerned the revised standards didn't go far enough. Since that time, a new administration has entered the White House and news broke last week that the standard will be revisited again, with the possibility of a revised standard being introduced in mid-2010. This has big implications for areas like Columbus, Augusta, Athens and Macon. Specific counties in these regions were recommended earlier this year by Georgia EPD to be reclassified as non-attainment areas for ground-level ozone. The designation process for these areas was slated to conclude in March of 2010, but has now been moved to 2011. With the extra time afforded them, commuters, employers and schools in these areas can do more to put programs in place to improve air quality. But the fact that the clock is now ticking a little slower should not become an excuse for complacency. Through its partnership with the Georgia Department of Transportation, The Clean Air Campaign is ready to help more organizations in these locales. Call us.
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Good Works Garnering Accolades
Some of the best work to curb traffic and smog is happening right here in Georgia. In the past couple of months, The Clean Air Campaign and its partners have been recognized nationally by the Association for Commuter Transportation and within the state by Conserve Georgia for our efforts in the shared pursuit of clean air and less traffic. But we certainly couldn't have earned these accolades without help from the legions of commuters and employers like you who have taken action. A thunderous round of applause for YOU. You're part of the solution that is eliminating 1.6 million miles of vehicle travel and keeping 800 tons of pollution out of the air we breathe EACH DAY. But we know there's more work we can do together ... read on for another idea about how you can help even more.
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Clean Commuting: Always in Fashion
The Clean Air Campaign's mainstay $3 a day incentive that encourages current drive-alone commuters to make the switch had a huge year in 2008, bolstered by skyrocketing gas prices and an awakening among many commuters that using alternatives to driving alone makes sense. That was then. This is now. Falling prices at the pump ($2.30/gallon is now a steal when compared with the $4 we shelled out last year), combined with the aftershock of the recession and pressure being felt within the labor market are a few reasons that new participation in The Clean Air Campaign's incentives programs has slowed (though research findings show 74% of "graduates" from the $3 incentive program last year were still clean commuting 18-24 months after their incentive was exhausted). To spice things up a little, we are taking a cue from other businesses looking to drum up patronage. The Clean Air Campaign is awarding a fun t-shirt to the next 2,000 commuters to sign up for the $3 a day incentive program. Get the scoop here and tell all your friends and co-workers who drive alone about this limited-time offer. You can be more than a clean commuter. You can become an ambassador for clean commuting.
Welcome to the dog days of summer 2009. The sun is hot and there are burning questions to address about transportation and air quality. So, grab some shade and pour yourself a tall glass of knowledge in this edition of Merging Lanes.
Is there less traffic on the roads?
The latest edition of the Urban Mobility Report, a comprehensive study of traffic congestion in major cities, says Atlanta is no longer the 2nd worst city in the nation for commuters. We are now the 3rd worst city for commuters. Only Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. commuters waste more time in traffic and burn up more fuel going nowehere than Atlanta commuters do. Yay, us.
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But didn't $4 gas and the recession cause bigger changes than that?
Unfortunately, this new data only gets us through 2007, when pump prices had just started their painful ascent and the first tremors of economic collapse were still faint. Certainly when the 2008 numbers become available, the effect of gas prices and the sour economy will be much more pronounced. But for now, we only get to pore over the 2007 numbers, which say the average metro Atlanta commuter wasted two fewer gallons of fuel than the prior year and two fewer hours stuck in gridlock. Raise your hand if you've truly felt the positive impact of these "savings" in your commute. Stay tuned for more recent traffic data that may become available in the near term.
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So, how should employers, commuters and policymakers interpret this new data?
With a grain of salt. Yes, the region saw improved traffic conditions in 2007 and will be able to say that traffic improved even further in 2008. But it's improper to say our traffic problems are fixed. Market conditions provided temporary relief ... and market conditions are largely beyond our control. Metro Atlanta is grappling with 9.5% unemployment, which is good for the still-employed who can negotiate through lighter traffic to get to their jobs, but bad for Georgia's economic vitality. Whipsawing fuel prices cause people to drive less, but only when costs rise dramatically. One of the best takeaways from the Urban Mobility Report is this statement on the first page about how to achieve long-term improvement:
"There are many congestion problems but there are also many solutions. The most effective strategy is one where agency actions are complemented by efforts of businesses,manufacturers, commuters and travelers."
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How is Georgia's air quality faring this Smog Season?
As of July 10, Metro Atlanta has experienced 8 Code Orange days so far this smog season, when ground-level ozone concentrations were deemed unhealthy for sensitive groups. Last year at this point, Atlanta had experienced 16 bad air days. Middle Georgia has registered two such days this year, compared with three by this point in 2008. North Georgia has also racked up a pair of Code Orange days this year, versus five by this time a year ago. As we approach the midpoint in the 2009 smog season, things are looking up: we're coming out of a drought, temperatures have not consistently boiled over ... and we hope more commuters are reducing their contribution to smog by finding better ways to get to and from work.
Today we’re exactly halfway through smog season. How are we doing so far? Good question.
As you may know, the EPA tightened ozone standards earlier this year. As a result, the Atlanta region was expected to have more violations.
So far during smog season, metro Atlanta has registered 16 ozone violations (2 code red, unhealthy for everyone; 14 code orange, unhealthy for sensitive groups). Last year during the same period, we logged 12 ozone violations (2 code red; 10 code orange).
If the standard had not changed, eight of this year’s violations would not have been recorded. So while we have more violations than last year, you could say that we’re having a better year. But the bottom line is that standards changed for a very good reason: to better protect human health. From that perspective, even one violation is one too many.
If you are changing your commuting habits to be more “green,” (or even to save money), rest assured that your hard work is making a difference. Each day in metro Atlanta, your relationship with The Clean Air Campaign is helping to eliminate 1.2 million vehicle miles of travel and keep 600 tons of pollution out of the air. But commuters in the region can do more.
Besides ditching your solo driving habits, there are other simple actions you can take to protect your health:
- Sign up to receive Smog Alerts.
- Learn how to protect yourself and your family from the negative health effects of bad air.
- Encourage others to do the same.
The hottest days of summer are still ahead of us, so please share any tips you have for reducing pollution on Smog Alert days.
And so you know we’re not alone in this fight, take a look at the new Olympic stadium in Beijing. The Christian Science Monitor reports that one reading of particle pollution at the stadium was seven times the World Health Organization’s recommended levels. Being part of the solution is more important than ever in our world. But, without question, being part of the solution must start with us taking action here in Georgia.