public transportation

Revisiting the Country Mouse

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By Kelsey Sollner

As my semester in Washington, DC comes to a close, I’ll get a little reminiscent about what a great time I had. I wrote a post when I first arrived and would like to update you. Initially anxious and mystified by city living, I now think of it as second nature.

I could walk or use public transportation to get anywhere I needed to go, and I could sleep more soundly at night knowing I was doing the environment some good by leaving my car at home in New Jersey. Speaking of sleep, I can now fall asleep to urban noise, and I wonder if I’ll miss it. I will admit: my body took a while to get used to city air—I was sneezing and coughing a lot those first few weeks! But I toughed it out; I wouldn’t let a little sinus trouble keep me from getting outside and soaking in the hustle and bustle of DC.

I was never bored. In the nation’s capital, monotony was one thing I never had to tackle. To make sure I was making the most of my time here, I used an old trick to adapt: I gave myself something to look forward to every day. I kept a calendar of big and small upcoming events (friends visiting, community service opportunities, street festivals, holiday events, neighborhood gatherings) and lived one day at a time, enjoying the present.

My internship sharpened me up, too. I felt that my work and I were fully engaged in the EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment. I am proud to be part of such a creative, dedicated team. I’ll carry everything I learned from them with me for the rest of my life.

One of the best semesters I’ve ever had culminated with a meteor shower that, even with a view clouded by city lights, I was able to enjoy from my balcony. It was the perfect finale for an eventful semester studded with valuable life lessons and hard work. Nonetheless, now I can look forward to stargazing under my familiar country sky.
DC, I’ll miss you, but I know I’ll be seeing you soon!

About the author: Kelsey Sollner is a senior from Susquehanna University majoring in journalism. She works as an intern in the EPA’s Office of Web Communications.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Climate Change Fellow | From NYC to Bogota

By Irene Boland Nielson 

Have you ever wondered what your job would be like in another country?

For two weeks, I worked as a Climate Change Fellow in Bogota, Colombia part of a program funded by the Partnership of the Americas. My desk in the office of the Institute for Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies in downtown Bogota overlooked a busy street with crowded bus lanes not unlike rush hour on Broadway. If I squinted, the street could easily be mistaken for the old Bowery. My assignment was to develop strategies to address the already observed and predicted changes in climate for the Bogota regional integrated plan.  The plan will encompass not only the city, but also the surrounding Cudinmarca region’s vital food production, agricultural products and watershed. We discussed protecting the pristine watershed for the drinking water of a city of eight million people. No, I’m not talking about the Catskills reservoir, but rather the Chingaza páramo, an Andean tundra that sponges rainfall to slake the thirst of Bogoteños.  We discussed the city’s “lungs” (no, not Central Park, but the National Park) as a respite from the city’s dirty air and traffic. Our office windows in Bogota were operable and let in clouds of particulates from the diesel buses lurching below.  Most days, I crammed into the Transmillenio, a modern transit system already under expansion to meet growing crowds. The multitudes of private diesel commuter buses provided a vital option for Bogoteños who face limited driving days based on their license plate number.

Colombia is directly impacted by the El Niño Southern Oscillation. Driven by unusually high water surface temperatures in the Pacific, the El Niño phenomenom and it’s opposing condition of unusually cool water surface temperatures,La Niña, have alternately yielded periods of drought and extreme rainfall. According to the World Bank, Colombia is one of the Latin American countries most impacted by climate. I learned about the 72% loss of Santa Isabel glacier (yes, Colombia has six glaciers) and the thousands who have lost their homes in devastating landslides, caused by weeks of intense rainfall on sloping neighborhoods.  More

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Is the Hassle of Public Transportation Worth It?

By Kasia Broussalian

The subway system of New York City boasts a number of milestones that shine through much of its grime…scurrying rats included.  The city’s rapid transit system is the oldest and most extensive system in the world. Last year alone it carried 1.6 billion riders through 468 stations and across 656 miles of revenue track.  This extensiveness, coupled with a 24-hour service routine, significantly cuts personal energy expense—especially where small geographic location meets an extremely high population density.

Don’t get me wrong—there are plenty of days when I am so exasperated with the system, I could fall to my knees and curse the very men who laid down those tracks in 1904.  There can be delayed trains, service disruptions (meaning no trains are coming), long wait times, and limited communication with the riders. Not to mention the scorching heat , little ventilation, and creeping rats that are enough to make any person think twice before making the perilous MetroCard swipe. There are upsides, though. Apart from the individual incentives; i.e. the no parking fees, no traffic headaches, etc, there are significant big picture contributions. About one-third of the United States’ total carbon emission comes from transportation, and 60 percent of that comes from personal vehicle use. Already, New York City rivals such “green cities” as San Francisco and Portland in terms of personal energy expenditure. The overall factor can be greatly attributed to our love-hate relationship with the subway system.

A few weeks back, I traversed a greater portion of the N train; from the East Village of Manhattan to the last stop at Coney Island. I noticed the traveler pictured above get on midway through my travels, and shortly after (perhaps two or three stops later), he hopped off. At this point I thought, “For all its faults, the subway really is the epitome of ease. Paths just out of walking distance or otherwise insurmountable to pedestrians become accessible and travelers can hop on and off without the hassle, or the pollution, of a car.” Tell us your experiences with the subway, exemplifying both its hassle and its ease.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Leave the Car!!!

bakeLast month, I challenged myself to lower my carbon footprint so I decided to work out my first big step: overcoming car dependency.  I live in the San Juan metropolitan area, where you have everything so near that sometimes using the car is ridiculous.  First of all, I tuned up my old bike and skateboard.  I started going almost everywhere with them:  grocery store, drugstore, university, concerts, and even on Friday nights hanging out with my friends.  I used my car only to go to work, because the distance between work and my apartment is significant.   But I realize that other options where available, like the bike/train program, which gave me the opportunity to use the train with my bike and cut a run of approximately 45 minutes to one of 10 minutes to work.   Unfortunately, it was no easy feat.  Here in Puerto Rico the infrastructure to support the use of bicycles is almost zero.  Even though, there are many recreational cyclists here, there is still a lot to be learned about promoting the use of the bicycle as transportation means.  While we have a local Cyclist Bill of Rights, it is not enforced all the time.  Cyclists, recreational or not, are a big group, and agencies need to provide the necessary infrastructure to guarantee our safety.

We all know that cars & trucks are among the largest sources of air pollution.  Vehicles emit about one-third of all volatile organic compounds and half of the nitrogen oxides and air toxics that contribute to poor air quality.  They release carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas and known contributor to climate change.

Our Agency has taken various steps to help employees reduce their impact on the environment. EPA offers its employees a Transit Subsidy which is an excellent way to promote the use of mass transportation.  Also programs like Flexiplace, Alternate Work Locations and Compressed Work Schedules give us the opportunity to limit or eliminate our commute days, thus lowering our carbon footprint.
For now, I am working towards becoming car independent.  I strive to lower my carbon footprint by making this and other changes in my daily routine.  While I am changing my life, I am improving my health and contributing to making Earth a better place.

About the author: Alex Rivera joined EPA in 2007.  He works as an environmental engineer in the Municipal Waters Division of the Caribbean Environmental Protection Division.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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