Individual actions add up
Our choice of transportation mode for our trips collectively has a substantial impact on our environment. Getting around in one’s own car has been convenient (thanks to federal, state, and local policies) but as more of us are driving, and each is driving more, there are so many cars on the roads that congestion often makes driving a hassle. Congestion reduces air quality by increasing idling. On the other hand, reducing congestion by widening roads and adding parking supply also negatively effects the natural and built environment. And, as expensive as it is, road widening is never a permanent solution, because additional road supply typically induces development and more travel. But when we use other transportation methods (carpooling, bus, bike, walk, etc.) for some of our trips we can not only ease congestion, but also reduce environmental impacts, and usually save money. Here are some of the reasons why alternative transportation methods are beneficial:
Driving alone is, in many situations, the most expensive way to get around.
- As of 2012, the average cost of owning and operating a car is about $0.60 per mile or $8,946 per year (for a sedan), assuming the average individual drives 15,000 miles per year (AAA, 2008 edition of “Your Driving Costs”). Being able to carpool, use public transit, bicycle, or walk can help many people save money.
- For those who can’t afford to buy a car, having transportation options that do not require car ownership increases access to jobs and reduces absenteeism at work. Freedom from car ownership also allows individuals and families to invest their income in something that will not depreciate as rapidly as an automobile.
Alternative transportation methods can reduce air pollution and water pollution by reducing the number of vehicles in use.
- Burning 1 gallon of gasoline releases 20 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. CO2 contributes to the “greenhouse effect,” warming earth’s atmosphere.
- Even the lowest fuel-economy SUV carrying four carpool riders to work will use less energy and emit less pollution per passenger-mile than a hybrid Prius carrying only a driver (Environmental Building News, September 2007, www.buildinggreen.com).
- Fewer vehicles in use means less pavement is needed for roads and parking lots, and less pavement helps reduce the volume and flow of polluted stormwater.
Alternative transportation methods can reduce the amount of oil Americans purchase from foreign countries.
- Transportation constituted 29% of the U.S. energy consumption in 2008. Of that, 61% was used by cars, light trucks, and motorcycles. The transportation sector is about 96% dependent upon petroleum as an energy source. (U.S. Department of Energy, “Transportation Energy Data Book, Edition 29”)
- Each year, public transportation use across the U.S. saves the equivalent of 34 supertankers of oil (American Public Transportation Association, http://www.apta.com/media/facts.cfm#hw03).
- A full transit vehicle would consume less than 10% of the energy per passenger-mile as automobile travel (Victoria Transport Policy Institute’s Online TDM Encyclopedia, http://www.vtpi.org/tdm/tdm59.htm).
Many alternative transportation methods help increase daily physical activity. Even riding a bus can be more active than driving, since accessing the bus stop typically involves more walking, or even bicyling.
- An analysis of 2001 National Household Travel Survey data for transit users finds that walking to and from transit helps inactive persons attain a significant portion of the recommended minimum daily exercise they need (American Public Transportation Association, http://www.apta.com/media/facts.cfm#hw03).
Having fewer vehicles in use reduces the demand for road widening. Besides saving federal and state tax dollars, avoidance of road widening prevents destruction of roadside trees, which provide several economic, environmental, and social benefits.
- The presence of trees contributes to the value of real estate.
- Trees in commercial districts increase patronage and positively affect purchasing behavior.
- Trees reduce the costs of heating and cooling buildings.
- Trees reduce levels of air pollution.
- Trees reduce the “heat island” effect of urbanized areas.
(Karen Dixon and Kathleen Wolf, “The Benefits and Risks of Urban Roadside Landscape”)
Participation in Coastal Commuters programs, such as by carpooling, riding the bus, biking, or walking to or from work, and use of the Emergency Ride Home (ERH) program is an individual decision. Participants are completely responsible for the operation of carpools and participation in any Coastal Commuters program. COASTAL COMMUTERS, THE CHATHAM COUNTY-SAVANNAH METROPOLITAN PLANNING COMMISSION, AND EMPLOYERS ACTING AS ITS PROMOTIONAL PARTNERS SHALL HAVE NO RESPONSIBILITY OR LIABILITY FOR ANY CLAIMS, EXPENSES, OR DAMAGES RESULTING FROM ANY INDIVIDUAL'S PARTICIPATION IN A CARPOOL OR ERH PROGRAM OR FROM ANY INDIVIDUAL’S DECISION TO RIDE THE BUS, BICYCLE, OR WALK.