Triangle Chatter

1 and Done: An Alternative Commute Challenge

Triangle Air AwarenessDo you think you could commit to taking a form of alternative transportation one time over the course of the next 12 months?  I’m not talking about a New Year’s resolution—we all know how those go!  I mean anytime, starting today, even.

That’s all Len Cone, Transportation Demand Management Coordinator for the Town of Chapel Hill, asked of those of us who attended the Go! Chapel Hill Transportation Management Conference on November 16, 2012.  O.K., I take that back…she asked each of us to make that commitment and then ask 5 other people to do the same.  Just one alternative commute.  Your choice:  take the bus, carpool, vanpool, go by foot, cycle, or telecommute (the new term for working from home).

There are certainly lots of compelling reasons to try out different forms of alternative commutes and see if you find a good fit for yourself.  My top 3 reasons:

  1. $$$:  The cost of gas is still outrageous;
  2. Reduce air pollution:  Did you know that cars and trucks are our #1 source of ground level ozone in North Carolina?  Ground level ozone is one of our top 2 primary air pollutants.
  3. Get into the habit of commuting in a way that avoids the impending I-40/440, 3-year construction project dubbed, “Crawleigh.”

With fuel savings being a given, let’s go back to reasons #2 and #3.  Think of I-40/440 as a giant parking lot full of idling engines, with each vehicle producing air pollution, each experiencing engine wear because of the idling, and each wasting gas.  (For every 2 minutes you idle your engine—sitting in the carpool line or a drive thru—you use about the same amount of fuel it takes you to drive 1 mile.)  Close your eyes and imagine it (but read ahead, first, so you’ll know what to do, once your eyes are closed):  What will it smell like? (Answer:  car exhaust on top of construction vehicle emissions and the smell of tar.  And body odor on particularly hot days.)  What will it feel like?  (Answer:  If your temper’s not already boiling, the temperature will be during our warmer months, which is more than our cool months—you know, the reason we all like living here.)   What will it sound like?  (Answer:  Grinding gears, that annoying beeping that signals a vehicle or machine in reverse, loud, heavy-duty engines, horns, sirens from the many fender-benders caused by tail-gating, phone conversations, and texting, and obscenities that signal our abandonment of all civility, and, for some of us, our genteel, Southern manners.)

But I digress.  Back to the commitment to make 1 alternative commute over the next 12 months.  I’m lucky in that I get to telework, thus taking one more single-occupancy vehicle off the road.  Sometimes I carpool with my husband, and sometimes I carpool to work and take the bus home, but those times are rare.  In all honesty, I usually commute alone.  I have children, which translates to a not-so-consistent schedule.  I like people, so I prefer working in an office over working at home with our cats, both of whom I love but who tend to be needy.

My point is, I know it can be hard to make alternative commuting a regular part of your work life.  But to try it once…in a year…could you commit to that?  Because if you can commit to one alternative commute over the next 12 months, that means I only have to find 4 more people to do the same so that I can make Len Cone happy.

Leave us a post or comment, once you’ve made your alternative commute.  Or tweet us @TriangleAir, or post to our Facebook page.  We want to know, which one did you pick?  Were there any surprises?  Was it easier than you thought it’d be?  Did you meet someone new?  Lastly, issue the challenge to your friends:  Shout it from the bus stops!  From the greenway bridge as you cross the beltline!  Over Skype or FaceTime from the comfort of your own home!  I’ll be sure to let Len know you did.

Author: Elaine Loyack, Program Coordinator, Triangle Air Awareness


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