Travel Smart for Clean Air
As the hub for NE Georgia, Athens is a major employment, education, health and entertainment center growing in popularity and population. A steady stream of new residents and a burgeoning daytime population brings increased challenges related to demand for energy, transportation infrastructure, and increasing air quality degradation.
According to the EPD, 62% of smog-forming emissions in Athens-Clarke County come from tailpipes of cars and trucks. This represents a significant problem for our air quality, particularly with respect to ground-level ozone. Indeed, Athens-Clarke County stands on the verge of failing to meet federal air quality standards designed to protect the public's health. With tighter standards likely to come later this year, non-attainment status could lead to stricter permitting requirements in the county, more regulatory controls, depressed economic growth, and a generally negative stigma about the quality of life in Athens.
But, with stricter regulatory and volunteer actions, Athens can face this challenge head on! By working together, every local employer, commuter, and resident can make a huge difference in improving and protecting Athens' air quality. This is one of the reasons why Athens-Clarke County partnered with the Clean Air Campaign and created Travel Smart Week as a way to showcase how choosing alternatives to driving alone can help improve the air we breathe.
Thanks to an expanding network of transportation alternatives, including Athens Transit, sidewalks, and bike lanes, individuals can travel with increasingly less dependency on their cars. Everyone is encouraged to get out of their cars, enjoy the fresh air, get some exercise and Travel Smart!
Heidi Davison is the mayor of Athens-Clarke County and serves on the Northeast Georgia Regional Development Center Board. Through their use of commute options programs in the past year, Athens-Clarke County Unified Government employees have kept more than 8,000 pounds of pollution out of the air we breathe.