Circulating for a while on the net I hope that by sharing this small quiz it is possible for most of you start 2012 in a good way
Posts Tagged ‘mass transit’
One problem in many cities around the world, a problem we have written quite a lot about here at www.commutegreener.com is traffic congestion. There are simply too many cars on the roads. Cities all around the world does what they can to reduce the number of active vehicles, but more and more get added to the traffic every year. It might seem like a hopeless struggle, but several strategies have been developed over time. The Boris bikes of London and similar bike share options are one part of the struggle, and information campaigns like the “No more ridiculous car journeys” of Malmö, Sweden, is another way to go. But in the end, reducing the number of vehicles on the roads may come down to making driving as unattractive as possible or otherwise keeping cars of the roads.
Let me explain. Driving in itself is not bad. Well it isn’t the best for the environment but having a car can be really convenient. Too convenient. Driving is comfortable. It is cheap, at least in many peoples minds. It is what most people are used too. But finding a parking space can be something of a problem. Much of the traffic in a city center is simply people looking for a place to park. Less parking spaces, or high costs makes driving less attractive and rises the attractiveness of alternative, greener means of transportation.
The City of Gothenburg have made quite a lot of experiments in this area. We have problems with bad air quality and inversion (poor air mixing and rising levels of pollutants in the air) during High air pressure. Noise is also a problem for those who live downtown. We can’t have people cruising around looking for parking spaces. To combat this behavior the city placed real time parking information on several of the larger roads. They also made sure to reduce parking possibilities as much as possible in places outside the big parking houses, giving bonuses too “green” cars to stimulate people to by those instead of carbon spewing monsters. And they have kept prizes quite high. As far as I know it have actually worked okay. Most people prefer to use public transportation or walk while downtown.
Another way to work with the problem of “parking cruising” is prizing and information. Let availability and demand set the prize of parking and let people use IT too find out what is available. Like in San Fransisco which is an interesting city. Several projects are ongoing to reach a sustainable society, and many of the solutions are quite… interesting. Like this;
“In some city neighborhoods, cruising makes up as much as 40 percent of all traffic. All this unnecessary traffic slows down buses, endangers cyclists and pedestrians, delays other motorists, and produces harmful emissions. The key to eliminating it is to get the price of parking right.” – Elizabeth Press on StreetFilms.org
Interesting solution, don’t you think? Reduce the number of vehicles on the roads by getting them to the parking spaces more quickly, thereby reducing cruising and saving CO2 as well as particles and other nasties. It will be interesting to see how this turns out.If someone from San Fransisco reads this and have tried the system, then feel free too drop a comment here, or to connect to us on facebook or twitter. It would be really interesting to hear first hand how this works in reality.
However you attack this problem at city level, the best way for the common man to affect the severe traffic problems of todays cities is to simply choose public transportation or to walk/bike. Taking the bike or the bus to work isn’t just about saving money and CO2 equivalents (a car or bus emit lots of GHGs, but to simplify it you recalculate them into the affect CO2 have on the climate. 1 unit of methane is for example 23 times as bad as CO2). You also help fighting this hated congestion, and don’t get stuck in mind numbingly slow traffic with all that comes with that. And you don’t have too cruise around for parking either!
I found a rather interesting article about how to create a culture of public transportation today. It was about the Marci option, an ongoing campaign in California, USA. Outside San Ramon, almost 40 miles from San Fransisco, there is a big office park with some 30 000 workers. 33% of them choose public transportation for the commute. The article is in the Atlantic by the way.
Wait a minute! 33%? that’s a huge number. Really good. Especially in such a car centered culture as the American. Some 90 % of the Americans commute by car, so getting 10 000 of a total of 30 000 office workers to change to a greener commute is fantastic. It is so good I can hardly believe it. How on earth have this come to pass?
This office park have the Ranch’s Transportation center, and its program manager Marci (ie the name Marci option) to thank for this. She, her coworkers and the companies around the park have managed to create a whole new transportation culture. Using transit is a choice, not a sacrifice. And it is easy in this area apparently as there are lots of bus lines that go through or close to the office park. Availability is a key for making public transportation really well used and popular. It also makes it possible to save lots of money on gas, insurance and other costs. More importantly is the fact that if it is easy to access it will be easier to switch to a greener commute as a lifestyle choice. Weather this is a “stress less” choice or for the environment doesn’t really matter, one will lead to the other. Like health, wealth and a better planet. I wonder where you heard that slogan before…
I find two major things interesting here;
1) The fact that the program got almost 10 000 of 30 000 employees to switch to public transportation, and buses at that. I have gotten he impression that buses are for the poor while rail in all form for the middle-class in many Americans minds. Not only that but it takes a while to get used to public transportation. The article in The Atlantic mentioned two weeks. For someone to hang on to something they mistrusts and dislike for two weeks is quite impressive. And the workers seem to have noticed that they save money and live a more environmentally friendly lives as well.
2) The health results. To quote the article
Marci says that once riders begin leaving their cars at home they go through a stressful period of two weeks or so where they feel that they’ve lost the control they had in the car. But within three weeks they notice their overall stress levels are lower. “Transit requires that you go at a different pace. You have to wait. If there were roses, we’d smell them,” she says, “There’s not much of that in our lives.” She says HR people have called her saying some of their meaner workers have become pleasant people after switching to transit.
In other words, there are some serious carrots for employers AND employees to lobby for better public transportation. If it is possible it might even be an idea to throw in good bike parking (with security cameras/locked doors to avoid theft) in the lobbying as well. Who doesn’t want to reduce stress and stress-related diseases and symptoms.
Commute Greener! is running a campaign at Lindholmen Science park in Gothenburg during April and May. Health wealth and a better planet are central words for Commute Greener! We too focus on lifestyle choices. It is really nice to see that similar campaigns are running with great results. Climate change is a huge and foreboding problem. We will all have to pitch in and do our part in controlling this monster. Small steps matter a great deal, and the commute is something that can be easy to affect. You can save lots of CO2 by simply taking the bus instead of driving, and you will get calmer (once you get used to it) and save a few bucks in the process. If these guys can, we can too!
Public transportation is a really nice option on a day like this. It wasn’t exactly poring down, but rain have been a constant threat, and the world have been shrouded in a gray light. Not the most inspiring day to hop on the bike and peddle away.
You have had days like this too. You know it. And this is when public transportation have the opportunity to shine. Driving in rain with limited viability can be a pain. You move slower then usual, the wipers constantly moving and you have to be even more careful not to get to close to pedestrians. Much better to simply sit back, relax and read a book, right?
A greener commute can be comfortable. Really comfortable. Catch the first morning commuter train sometime and see for yourselves. People sleep, read the paper, eat breakfast, shave and apply makeup (with some hilarious effects) or simply sit around. So much more when you see the drivers in their looong lines. And when you see the rain wash down and you don’t have to get wet or wear yourself out while driving, sitting on a comfortable bus can be quite satisfying.
Environmentally speaking, taking the bus is a real climate winner. One vehicle, although big, can swallow almost 70 cars. 70* 240 CO2/km (the average big car) equals about 17 kg of CO2/ km. A bus with about half of the seats taken emit some 40 g/km and passenger, ie about 3 kg CO2/km with 70 passengers. 14 kg of CO2 (or 28 pints for you bear lovers out there. 1 liter of water weight about 1 kg) is a lot of savings. And that is for one kilometer. A five kilometer commute could save some 70 kg.
Train or light rail emit even less, thus save more. There is a reason governments around the world want to expand their rail systems and reduce the amounts of cars on the streets. More public transportation also reduce noise levels and congestion, making driving a more pleasant experience when you have to drive. Cycling or walking gets more pleasant as well with reduced noise, congestion, pollution and stress.
In other word, there are so many reasons to take the bus to work. It may take a little longer then driving, but that is time well spent on relaxing. I myself am into my second book for the month already. You also do something good for the environment on a local, regional and global scale. THAT is something you can do every day. In the long run you will probably save money too. So try the public transportation out for health, wealth and a better planet!
There are many ways to promote public transportation. Information, campaigns, free tickets, rapping lego men… wait what?
It’s true. While strolling through my rss feed I found a rather funny article at Green Growth Cascadia. It is a site dedicated to greener transportation, with tips, interesting news and discussions. The blog article wasn’t that long, but it had an interesting video in it.
Apparently, Detroit is upgrading its rapid transit system, and this video had a nice song, explaining why running trains down the middle of a boulevard is the safest and best alternative for the new light rail. Now, I am not very well read on the project, so I don’t know anything about the situation, but this “debate song” is really spot on.
This is how campaigns and information about projects should be brought across. It would have been even better if Detroit city had done something similar, but this sure is how information should be presented. Well, maybe not with rapping toys, but in a fun, innovative and interesting way. I don’t like rap, but even I think this video is catchy. It sure beats the old “paper slip in the mailbox” thing most information campaigns use. At least those for public transportation. They could be a lot more interesting and would probably attract much more attention with something like this.
Now granted, campaigns for public transportation can be successful without rapping plastics. The great commuter experiment run in the west of Sweden made 28 000 car commuters to try a mass transit commute, and some 8000 of those have continued after the experiment was finished. To put that in relatedly numbers; 28 000 is like one of our towns… 8000 is like one of the smaller Swedish community/cities. That is a really good outcome. The message was out everywhere, on buses, on posters, in the news… you couldn’t get away from it. But I wonder if something like this on the frontpage of the transit company’s webpage wouldn’t have caught even more attention. And attention is one of the keys to get a campaign running.
Speaking of campaigns, if you are a student or work at Lindholmen, Gothenburg, check out the LSP Campaign we and a bunch of companies are running for greener commute habits. (Sorry English speakers, info just in Swedish). Join in and Commute Greener!
I hope everyone enjoyed the innovation theme of last weeks articles. I did, but it is time to go back to some new tips on how to make a green commute easier.
A mass transit commute can seem chaotic at first. Lots of people are sharing a vehicle, you have to keep track of which station you are at, different routes, different costs for different services and so on. Is it really possible to bring kids to that kind of environment? Well, yes, I am a living example of that, being raised without a car in the family. But it does take some forethought. Without it, it will not be enjoyable for anyone.
Let me explain. Children on the bus can be really cute. I really enjoy seeing a kid asking mum/dad questions, singing etc on the bus. But noughty children is not cute and disturbs the other passengers as well as add to the stress of the parent. I´ll let a real life example point out how it shouldn´t be; on a train ride some months ago me and my girlfriend shared a cupe with a mother and a child of about 6. The child was hyperactive, screamed, managed to pour lemonade over some very expensive study material of mine, jumped on the table and disturbed everyone around. Regardless of what we did the mother responded with “but she is so cute”. The point is; it is possible to bring children on the bus. It is a safe environment. The risk is minimal at best. Try it out, but make some preparations.
- Make sure YOU know the route, and see if you can bring a stroller on the bus. Ask the driver. That way you know the rules of the game in advance so to speak.
- Keep the kids occupied. Letting them run amok disturbs the other passengers.
- Bring a snack and some water/lemonade.
- Bring a bag for excess clothing. Public transportation can be a warm
- Use common sense. Would you accept your child’s behavior if it weren’t yours? Other travelers should give you some space, but scenes like above should always be avoided. There are limits to patience after all.
I am by no means an expert on children, rather the opposite. But riding the bus every day neats you many examples of how you can do it, and of how much they can benefit from it. One benefit is increased mobility. How many parents drive their children everywhere when they are getting old enough to enter clubs and activities? What about if the kid could take the bus home by them selves when they get older? Another benefit is that moving from place to place by other means then car, like with bike or walking, is good for the health. A third one is that you get to spend some quality time with your kid while showing him/her the real world.
A green commute should be an alternative for everyone, and it is. It is just a matter of preparations and a positive frame of mind. Try it out. This article is a really good starting point of how to go about bringing the kids on public transportation. I can recommend a read through. And afterwards, try it out. Bring the kids. Commute greener. Enjoy the benefits of a greener commute, and pass down the knowledge.
Remember the one tonne family from Wednesdays blog entry? How much would it really take to switch a few habits to greener ones? And how difficult would it be?
Habits are difficult to change. Especially habits you have gotten from your parents. Which type of transportation we choose is one such habit. Driving is one such habit. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with driving. It is necessary for many people. However it is expensive and not all that good for the health. Not for the environment either, especially if driving short distances and alone.
Many believe that taking the bus to work is much slower then driving, and less comfortable as well. That isn’t necessarily the case. Traffic congestion can turn a half an hour drive to a long and frustrating process, something that so often seems to be forgotten when planning the commute. A bus on the other hand cruises through traffic on separate bus lanes (where available) and a train or light rail haven’t got any problems at all.
What is best for the environment as well as our health; driving or using alternative modes of transportation? Well, to get the environmental class in Europe a car has to emit less then 120 g CO2/km. A bus with half its seats taken emit something in the range of 40g CO2/km and passenger. And while moving between transit points on the journey, you get to move a bit. Not a lot, certainly not enough to be healthy, but better then just going to the parking lot and then sitting still. Even better for both health and the environment is a bike commute. Zero emissions and plenty of exercise as well as saved money on fuel, repairs and gym cards. Seriously, try it out. It is really nice. By the way, with the new version of commute greener you will have a health index too, to keep track of more then just CO2. Anything to make greener commuting easier and more attractive to the costumer.
Changing commute habits require a commitment. It is a lot easier to do if you make it a competition at work or in the neighborhood. Who don’t want to one up his/her boss, or that pesky neighbor after all. Our trial in Gothemburg as well as in other places shows that as soon as green commutes became a conversation subject more people wanted to try it out. And the results were really good, at least one employee switched completely to biking, and one group managed to reduce their commute footprint with almost 2/3. There are no reasons why other organizations as well as individuals can’t get the same results.
There are of course a lot to plan for when changing habits, whether it is going on a diet, starting to use a pedometer to keep track of how many steps you take each day, stop smoking or starting on a greener commute. When it comes to the last case it is mostly a matter of planing and foresight. For example;
- Make sure you have the buses time table and relative traveling times. And make sure you have plenty of time when trying it out, public transportation takes a while to get used to.
- Is it possible to take the bike? Try it on a day of (it might even become some family quality time). Time it.
- Is it possible to telecommute? And no, I don’t fall for the “but having the heat and electricity on the whole day spends more power then commuting and being at work”. How many shut down the heating and electricity of during the day when they are gone anyways?
- Is it possible to carpool to work? Social AND good for the environment as well as the wallet.
- Make sure you have appropriate rain gear, and good winter clothing. Yesterday I saw a lady in a miniskirt and naked legs walking by in -7 C…
- Be patient. You’ll get used to it, and you will save money and learn to stress down in the long run.
- Make sure you can keep track of your savings, how much exercise you get and how much CO2 you save. It is a great motivator, and gives you some nice bragging rights at the pub:P By the way, Commute Greener!, both the Internet and iPhone version is great for this.
And so on. There are so many reasons to try a greener commute. If not for the environment so for getting out of that annoying congestion with its noise, bad air and stress. Or to get some exercise and a chance to wind down on the way home. Or to be social with some friends on the road. Or to beat the boss at the environmental game.
We have all been there. It is cold, wet, dark and the clock is ticking. Got to get to work in time. Where the heck is that bus!
Isn’t it annoying not to know when the public transportation option of your choice will arrive? Trains are somewhat more on time then buses because they don’t get stuck in traffic, but they can still run late. Accurate information of when transportation will arrive can save a LOT of complaining and irritation as well as making public transportation a bit more attractive.
Gothemburg and many other cities around the world have solved that with real time information screens at the transit points. And guess what, it helps a lot in planning ones journeys. But with the introduction of hand held computers with so many uses and applications that you often forget you can actually call people with them, aka smart-phones, comes new possibilities. The Norwegians have started using QR-codes read by a camera mobile that give you arrival times as well as departure times and other goodies by scanning a strip of paper (much like scanning an items code in the store). Quick and effective. Quite well covered to, with over 1000 stops in the system… Talk about a big project for a small country.
You can also find apps of all kinds for planning your public transportation journey nowadays. In other words, if you have a smartphone, not knowing where and how to take the bus is no good reason to drive short distances any more! Not only that, but think of how much easier this could make moving around in a new city. I know I would have loved a journey planner inmy cellphone when I moved to the big city;)
It will be exciting to see how the public transportation companies around the world can adopt to our modern hi-tech IT society. Do you have any tips of good journey planner apps? Come on, don’t be shy, tell us about it, either here or at facebook
How do you argue with a habitual driver about the fact that there are other means of transportation? Taking away somebody’s car, in thought or in actions, can be a very sensitive matter. The Swedish environmental debate is a fine example of this as much of the country is sparsely inhabited. Suggestions of new or reformed CO2 taxes and fuel taxes are always meet an encore of arguments against any changes. The plans for traffic congestion taxation through car tools even gave birth to a political party in Gothenburg.
It is easy to understand why people complain about having their freedom reduced by higher fuel prizes or other measures to reduce traffic. It is more difficult to argue about public transit with someone who have never taken the bus in their whole life about the fact that public transportation is indeed an option. Edvard Jobson, Volvo Buses Environmental Director and author of the Volvo Buses Environment Blog recently wrote an entertaining and quite interesting December Saga about one such argument. The story can also be found here.
“One morning, not many days ago, in a house, in a suburb not far from a big city Mr. William Johns woke up in a tired mode. Mr. Johns was a hard working man that took his car to the office, every morning and came back late every night. When dragging his feet in the direction of the breakfast table, he stumbled and almost fell over a small human person, Sara, that he barely noticed before.
Mrs Vera Johns explained for Bill that Sara, their oldest, now was 7 years, going to school three bus stops from their house and their Tim was already 5 and in the preparative school nearby. Mrs. Johns was managing director for a small enterprise and also worked a lot.
At the breakfast table this morning, not many days ago, Tim asked if Bill could take him to school.
Sure, I can bring you with the car, Bill responded while reading the local newspaper.
No! Tim exclaimed, please come with the bus as the dad and mum of the other kids in school.
The Bus? Bill asked and put the paper aside with a grin. Buses are dirty and pollute our beautiful village. How come that the politicians still waste our money on buses?
I think it is to bring me safely to school, Tim opposed.
Ye, ye, ye Bill interrupted, but today I will bring you with my new spacey seven seated four wheel drive city truck.
No, please don’t! The other kids will tease me, Tim cried.
Dad, I can explain, Sara interrupted.
Today every kid learns about the ecological footprint. The ecological footprint is the total impact we make on the environment when you include all the things you buy including the impact for the manufacturing and the transports, the water used, the energy needed to heat the house and all the travels we make.
Mumbo jumbo, Bill cut in. How was your math exam?
This month all the classes calculate and summarise their ecological footprint, Sara continued without taking notice of her dad’s provocation. He didn’t have a clue about which classes she took and which exams she made. And, Tim’s class is in lead. If you take him by car it will set back their position a lot.
Bullshit, Bill was alerted. My Versatile Urban Cruiser is the cleanest you can find with a 2010 Extra Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle and it runs on the most sustainable mix of peanut oil and switchgrass based alcohol you can find. It doesn’t make any footprint.
You got it all wrong Sara replied. You are running around alone in a two tonne iron lump that uses excessive amounts of energy. If sustainable fuel or not, is not the issue. Today we learn that both the iron, as a resource, and the energy use it self contributes to the impact. This is also why we nowadays learn that a 300 tonne train is far from ideal for transporting a couple of hundred 70 kg persons.
That’s my girl. Bill cheered up. That’s what I always said. The car is just as good as the train and much better than the bus.
Not quite, Sara broke in; the buses have improved radically since you were a kid. Both when it comes to hazardous emissions and total environmental impact.
But, if I go with the bus; I will be too late for the office, Bill responded.
Now it was Vera’s turn to intervene: Actually, Bill, I take the bus every day and it connects quite neatly to the express bus that takes me to the city centre much faster than you can go by car, considering the frequent traffic jam. And, I don’t need to spend time parking.
Bill, who was particularly fond of contests, certainly wanted to help his son to a victory; and joined Tim on the bus. Tim was proud to be accompanied by Bill, for the first time.
The Johns family lived happily ever after.”
Which arguments do we have here? We have resources, emissions, buses being better today then before, the fact that buses doesn’t have to be slower then driving etc. In the end it all comes down to making it a challenge, a competition. Is this the only way to argue? No, but a really good way. This short story actually contain the most common arguments about driving vs riding the bus that you will find out on the web.
Habits are hard to break. It is not easy to start thinking in new ways, especially when one haven’t been on a bus, or bike for that matter, or commuter-train, for years or ever. But there are a lot of environmental AND economical arguments for trying. So why not try? If nothing else, why not making it a competition, and see who at work can save the most CO2 or money on the commute? It can be fun and engaging, and give new perspectives on the local transportation situation. And why not use Commute Greener! while you are at it^^
It is not often that we write about Latin America here at the blog. It is so much easier to focus on the “western” world in the north hemisphere, as the language barrier can bring some difficulties in getting information. Not knowing Spanish can sometimes be a big road block after all. Yet a lot of commute related things are happening in Latin America, which deserve some praise. For example, Commute Greener! is setting up dedicated communities in Mexico City, and several cities are revising their bus systems.
EMBARQ (world WRI centre for sustainable transportation) and the world resources institute recently released a report about new BRT systems in several Latin American cities. Many of these cities went from having an existing but less then effective system to a more modern one. There were of course bumps in the road, but that is to be expected.
In the “lessons to be learned” section of the report, one can learn that although the implementation lacked planning due to time and money constrains, as well as some inter-agency responsibility discussions the service became better for the travellers. Which is great. After all, if you are going to reduce the environmental impact from travelling in big cities you will need an efficient transfer system.
This study really hi-lights the need for planning and time in implementation of new BRT systems. Time for information and education of the drivers are vital for smooth operations, and for more modern infrastructure.
But one lesson to be learned for the “western” world is that large scale bus public transportation does work. Some of the lines has 40 000 travellers/hour during rush hour. If comparatively poor nations can make systems that can stand this kind of rush, why do the west resign to invest in infrastructure for driving as “everybody drive anyway”.
Another interesting lesson here is that it is possible to build away some future environmental problems in these countries. While many drive, there isn’t as many cars on the roads as it is in the industrialized “old world” such as Europe, or North America (or am I wrong? feel free to correct me if so). By simply not getting as many cars in the first place, congestion and environmental problems there of may not be as severe as it could be.