Transportation

Earth Month Tip: Give your car a break

Using public transportation, carpooling, biking or walking can save energy and reduce carbon pollution on your way to and from work. Leaving your car at home just two days a week can reduce carbon pollution by an average of two tons per year.

Do you hate getting stuck in traffic jams? It may seem bold, but consider telecommuting (working from home via phone or the Internet), which can reduce the stress of commuting, reduce pollution, and save money. Even small life changes, like combining your errands and activities into one trip when using your car, make an impact.

More tips: http://www.epa.gov/earthday/actonclimate/

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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Sitting in Traffic (It’s all relative)

Greetings from New England!Each Monday we write about the New England environment and way of life seen through our local perspective. Previous posts

By Amy Miller

There’s a big sign flashing as you exit my Maine village to the north: EXPECT MAJOR DELAYS. Route 236 between South Berwick and Berwick is being repaved, I guess.

I can drive the four miles from South Berwick to Berwick without passing more than a handful of cars. Even on Friday evenings in summer when traffic coming into town is sometimes backed up a mile – a full 10 minutes — the road north from town is virtually empty. All of those cars take a right, east to the Maine coast.

So the idea of MAJOR DELAYS is one I cannot really imagine. I think of the LIE – the Long Island Expressway – which in some parts hosts on average about 200,000 vehicles a day (that’s 8,000 a minutes or 17 a second on each of eight lanes, if I’m doing my math right). Here, MAJOR DELAYS might mean it takes two hours to go 10 miles at rush hour instead of the normal 60 minutes. I think of The 5 in Los Angeles, where no one goes between 3 and 6 pm because too many cars are on the road already. I mean no one with any choice in the matter.

For a moment I think about the Tobin Bridge, where recent repairs have meant it could take an hour to get out of town. Or, stretching the imagination, I conjure up the image of the Portsmouth traffic circle in New Hampshire, where sprawl over the last two decades has changed a sleepy rotary into a circle of constant traffic that sometimes backs up nearly to the next exit north.

But major delays in South Berwick? State records show anywhere from 200 to 16,000 AADT on our various roads. AADT, by the way, is the annual average daily traffic and is used for all sorts of things, including transportation funding and planning. Leaving town via the MAJOR DELAY route there might be 6,000 AADT, best I could figure it. This means about 400 vehicles an hour or about 6 or 7 a minute, figuring on traffic only 15 hours a day. While the LIE may buzz at 3 am, our town is pretty much asleep by 10 pm on a weeknight and 11 pm on weekends.

When the DownEaster train comes through and they have to lower the gate I find myself waiting a minute or two, usually behind a dozen cars or less.

So I am curious. What will these MAJOR DELAYS look like?

Here’s EPA help assessing how green are your wheels, even if they are stuck in heavy traffic

About the author: Amy Miller is a writer who works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. She lives in Maine with her husband, two children, eight chickens, dusky conure, dog and a great community.

 

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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Help Us Find the Winners! National Award for Smart Growth Achievement

2012 Winner for Overall Excellence in Smart Growth: The BLVD Transformation, Lancaster, CA Photo courtesy of EPA

By Sarah Dale

Do you know a community that has made its downtown more walkable, bikable, and accessible to public transit? Used policy initiatives and regulations to improve the local environment? Turned its public parks into a driver for economic development? Then you might know a community that could apply for the National Award for Smart Growth Achievement. If so, please pass this blog post along!

Communities across the country are making choices about how to grow and develop while improving environmentally, socially, and economically. Through this award, EPA recognizes and supports communities that use innovative policies and strategies to strengthen their economies, provide housing and transportation choices, develop in ways that bring benefits to a wide range of residents, and protect the environment. This year, EPA is

2012 Winner for Equitable Development: The Mariposa District, Denver, CO Photo courtesy of EPA.

recognizing communities in four categories:

  • Built Projects
  • Corridor and Neighborhood Revitalization
  • Plazas, Parks, and Public Places
  • Policies, Programs, and Plans

Additionally, the review panel will choose one Overall Excellence winner.

Past winners are enthusiastic about the award: here’s what a few of the 2012 winners had to say:

  • “We’ve received an outstanding response from winning this award, and our project has received attention from throughout the state, across the nation, and even internationally.” Marvin Crist, Vice Mayor, Lancaster, CA
  • “Receiving the award increased awareness about what the Denver Housing Authority is doing among many different policy makers and stakeholders.” Kimball Crangle, Denver Housing Authority, Denver, CO
  • “I think the Smart Growth Award is a part of what solidified our position to the point where partners decided they wanted to be a part of this.” Scott Strawbridge, Housing Authority of the City of Fort Lauderdale, Lauderdale, FL

2012 Winner for Programs and Policies 2012: Destination Portsmouth, Portsmouth, VA Rendering courtesy of Urban Advantage.

If you know a community that is doing amazing things, encourage them to apply today! The competition is open to both public- and private-sector entities that have successfully used smart growth principles to improve communities. The application process is outlined here; the application deadline is April 12, 2013.

About the author: Sarah Dale is a special assistant with the Office of Sustainable Communities, which manages EPA’s Smart Growth Program. This is her third year managing the awards.

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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A Sense of Place

By Pam Lazos, Region 3

Ocracoke, a North Carolina barrier island, part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, is truly a mysterious place. Ocracoke’s physical connection to the rest of the world is tenuous: the only way onto the island is by ferry, private boat or private plane. Sure you can take your car, but fill the tank before you go because there’s only one gas station on the island. Once used for subsistence hunting and fishing by the Hatterask Indians, and a favorite haunt of Edward Teach, a/k/a the pirate Blackbeard, most of the island is preserved and wild, a thin, undeveloped strip of land that barely manages to keep its head at five feet above sea level.

The Ocracoke Village, built at the Southern, wider tip of the island, boasts the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the world’s tallest brick lighthouse and a National Historic Landmark. The village is also known for its parasailing, deep sea fishing, jet skiing, a great local music scene, and a beautiful beach, which is home to federally protected or endangered species such as the piping plover, the seabeach amaranth, and sea turtles. You can walk for miles along its shores without seeing a single building, nothing but dunes, sand and sea. There are amenities, yes: hotels, restaurants, shops, all the usual beach town stuff, but utter the word franchise and it’s as if you’re speaking a foreign language. Therein lies the charm: for hundreds of years, Ocracoke has been an outpost run by locals – including pirates – in their own way. While nature is always redrawing the boundaries of this mostly untamed island, its individualistic character remains intact.

My favorite part of the Ocracoke experience is riding our bikes everywhere while the car sits parked in the driveway. We ride for exercise – roundtrip to the ferry and back is almost 30 miles — we ride to the beach, to dinner and shopping. We’re not alone. Everyone’s either on a bike or a golf cart, the favored modes of transportation, or walking. I don’t think that people are consciously making these sustainable choices. Rather, it’s as if the place expects it of you, like you and the island made a pact the minute you got off the ferry: go slow, live fuller moments, slow down and breathe, leave the car. And so we do.

About the author: Pam Lazos is a Senior Assistant Regional Counsel, working in the Water Branch in Region 3.

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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The National Ocean Policy

by Gwen Bausmith

Growing up in southwest Ohio, I lived over 600 miles away from the ocean, viewing it as a vacation destination, a place very far removed from the agricultural fields and suburbs of the Midwest. It wasn’t until years later that I learned how much all of our lives, whether coastal or inland, are dependent upon and directly impact our ocean and coasts. Where I lived, my local tributaries fed into the Ohio River, which flowed to the Mississippi River, emptied into the Gulf of Mexico, and finally became part of the Atlantic Ocean. Understanding this connection was crucial to realizing my role in ocean and coastal environments.

Healthy and productive ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes regions are a significant part of our nation’s economy, contributing to untold millions of dollars a year and supporting tens of millions of jobs. The oceans are essential in international trade, transportation, energy production, recreational and commercial fishing, national security, and tourism. They also provide many ecological benefits such as flood and storm protection, climate regulation, and important habitat for fish species, migratory birds, and mammals.

My family depended on all of these services, especially for consumer goods and food. In addition, my father worked in the steel industry, relying heavily on our nation’s waters for transporting materials.

On July 19, 2010, President Obama signed an Executive Order directing the federal government to develop a National Policy for the Stewardship of the Ocean, our Coasts, and the Great Lakes, often referred to as the National Ocean Policy. It focuses on improving stewardship for our ocean and coastal resources and addressing their most pressing challenges.

It builds on over a decade of bipartisan discussions and looks toward a science-based approach for Federal, State, Tribal, and local partners to better manage the competing uses in these regions. Designed with extensive public and stakeholder input, the Policy will work to increase efficiencies across the Federal Government and provide access to better data to support multiple industries.

I am very proud to be a part of EPA’s involvement in the National Ocean Policy. EPA is committed to numerous actions and milestones in the Policy’s Implementation Plan, from improving water quality and promoting sustainable practices on land, to restoring and protecting regional ecosystems. I may not have realized it as a child growing up in the Midwest, but everyone has a stake in the future health of our ocean and coastal ecosystems. Every state is an ocean state.

About the Author: Gwen Bausmith is an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education Fellow at EPA’s Office of Wetlands, Oceans and Watersheds.

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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Share Your Sustainability Stories for Rio+20

by Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

This week I join colleagues from across the US and around the world at the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development. On the 20th anniversary of the 1992 UN Earth Summit that set an early course for sustainability across the globe, we are working to shape the next 20 years of sustainable development with the help of governments, businesses, students, non-profits and global citizens.

Our work will be focused on new strategies to reinvest in the health and prosperity of urban communities. Today, more people around the world live in cities than in rural areas. As that trend continues in the coming years, we will stretch the limits of our transportation systems and energy infrastructure, and be challenged to meet crucial needs like supplying food and clean water, and safely disposing of waste. We’re taking this opportunity at Rio+20 to develop strategies for both improving existing infrastructure and building new, efficient, cutting-edge systems. Innovations in water protection, waste disposal, energy production, construction and transportation present significant opportunities for new technologies, green jobs and savings for families, businesses and communities.

During my time in Rio, I plan to talk about the great work happening in communities across our nation. I will be sharing the stories of individuals and organizations that are implementing new environmental education programs and creating the green jobs of the future, and we’re preparing to unveil videos submitted through the Youth Sustainability Challenge. We want to hear from you as well. Please send us your stories of sustainability this week on Facebook and Twitter, using the hashtag #EPArio so that we can share them with the world.

Even if you can’t be there in person, I hope you will join Rio+20 online. Go to http://conx.state.gov/event/rio20/ to see and participate in all of the events being hosted by the US government, and be a part of our efforts to build a better, more sustainable and more prosperous future.

About the author: Lisa Jackson is the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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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About That Commute

By Eric Nelson

Four-thirty on a Thursday afternoon and I’m Cape Cod bound on a commuter bus, inching away from Boston in rush-hour traffic. I look out at the cars slowly passing us, or being passed, and the drivers all look familiar. I’ve been commuting for too long. The faces in the bus look familiar, too. We’ve all been doing this for years.

I examine the faces of the car commuters more closely. Most look hypnotized, or somber. Some drivers are talking on the phone, or texting. No-one seems especially pleased with their situation. On the bus, most commuters sit quietly while the day-trippers chat. Fortunately, there are mostly commuters. They normally read, or sleep, or stare at some electronic device. I always try to write or read, but often drift off to sleep, which is a pleasant option only when not behind the wheel.

Traffic delays are usually just due to heavy volume. Our bus holds 55 passengers, and it’s normally close to full. Sometimes, when neighboring passengers are coughing and sneezing – obviously sick – I’d rather be in a car by myself than this mobile petri dish. But mostly I’m quite content to ride the bus. Besides, the average diesel bus gets approximately 6 mpg so it takes about 10 gallons of fuel to get 55 passengers 60 miles to Cape Cod. The vast majority of cars around us are holding just one person each. Even if they all get 30 mpg, it would take about 2 gallons of gas per car, or 110 gallons total, to transport the same number of persons to Cape Cod. And the longer the delay, the more fuel used and greenhouse gases spewed.

We normally get to our destination about around the same time each evening and I, for one, feel rested and relaxed. By taking the bus there is less pollution emitted and fuel consumed, no stress and time to read or reflect. Sometimes it’s easy being green.

About the author: Eric Nelson works in the Ocean and Coastal Protection Unit of EPA New England in Boston, but prefers being underwater with the fishes. He lives in a cape on Cape Cod with his wife and two daughters, and likes pesto on anything.

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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Bike to Work, It's Easier Than You Think!

By Joe Edgell.

Gas prices skyrocket. Delays on the subway. Accidents on the Beltway. Police and fire activity blocking roads and snarling traffic.

Seems like there’s no way to get to work easily, on time, and with minimal cost.

Unless you consider commuting by bike. And this Friday, May 18 is Bike-to-Work Day, the perfect time to see how it works.

Here are the top ten reasons to join me and about 10,000 other bicyclists this Friday:

  1. According to the Outdoor Foundation, bicycling is the second most popular outdoor activity in the United States;
  2. Adults who bike to work have better weight, blood pressure, and insulin levels;
  3. Women who bike 30 minutes a day have a lower risk of breast cancer;
  4. Bicycling boosts the economy, with $5.6 billion in bikes and equipment sold in 2009;
  5. On a round-trip commute of 10 miles, bicyclists save around $10 daily;
  6. Traffic congestion wastes nearly 3.9 billion gallons of gas per year in the U.S.;
  7. Increased bicycling decreases vehicle traffic accidents;
  8. The transportation sector is responsible for 71% of all U.S. petroleum use.
  9. Bicycling produces only 21 grams of CO2 per person per kilometer, compared to 101 grams of CO2 per passenger per kilometer for buses, and a whopping 271 grams per passenger per kilometer for cars; and most importantly
  10. The health benefits of cycling outweigh the risks by a factor of 20 to one!*

And today bicycling is easier than ever. There are electric motor-assisted bicycles to help you with that push up the hill, bike sharing so you don’t have to worry about maintenance, and shower facilities at many employers, such as EPA.

Come out this Friday, bike with a group of people to a nearby celebration (or the massive celebration at the Reagan Building if you’re in DC), and take the first step in de-stressing your morning commute by biking to work.

I’ve been biking to work for the past eight years and love it. I’m healthier and happier. You’ll find it changes your entire outlook on the day!

*A special thanks to Bikesbelong.org for the biking benefits studies.

General information about biking to work

About the author: Joe Edgell is an attorney for the Office of General Counsel. Perched atop the bicycling baby seat, he’s been bicycling since before he could walk.

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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Balm Before the Storm

By Tom Damm
Click here to view the EPA press release on the Clean Water Act permit

When it comes to efforts to keep sewage, polluted stormwater and trash from reaching District of Columbia waterways and eventually the Chesapeake Bay, the past few weeks in the nation’s capital have been quite eventful.

EPA was on stage for two major announcements in the District that will have a big impact in cleaning up the Potomac and Anacostia rivers and Rock Creek, and improving the health of the downstream Bay.

The first event marked the signing of an EPA Clean Water Act permit that includes green infrastructure features designed to make the city more absorbent to rainwater – or “spongier” in the words of District Department of the Environment Director Christophe Tulou.

The second event signaled the start of DC Water’s massive series of underground tunnels that when complete will capture nearly all of the sewage overflows from the sewer system during heavy rains.  The project was prompted by a federal consent decree.

Both initiatives will not only promote clean water, they’ll also create jobs and improve the quality of life in the District.

With efforts like these, we’re looking forward to the day when one of the biggest concerns posed by a storm in D.C. is whether the Nationals game is played or not.

Stay tuned.

Click here to view the EPA press release on the Clean Water Act permit

Click here to view the DC Water project press release

About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division.  Prior to joining EPA, he held state government public affairs positions in New Jersey and worked as a daily newspaper reporter.  When not in the office, Tom enjoys cycling and volunteer work.  Tom and his family live in Hamilton Township, N.J., near Trenton.

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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Greening our Communities – One Green Street at a Time!

G3The recent Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns Forum in Silver Springs, MD in April is still generating a ‘buzz.’   How wonderful that this same place, Prince George’s County,  which gave rise to low impact development practices, has sparked a renewed investment in creating healthy, livable communities, through the approach known as “green infrastructure”.

The two-day forum hosted many of the leaders in low impact development (LID) and green infrastructure.  We were genuinely impressed by the number of  local mayors and town officials, planning directors, state and federal partners, and non-profit organizations training young adults to design and build rain gardens and green roofs, who attended and shared their  ‘boots on the ground’ experiences.  We in Region 3 are poised to respond, along with our partners, to expand the Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns (G3) Academy to deliver the tools and funding opportunities to these green innovators (and converts) who ‘rocked us’ at the forum with their enthusiasm and desire to build green streets and green infrastructure practices into their overall town plans.

One outcome of the forum is the overwhelming interest in a LID design competition.  We all were inspired by the keynote speaker, Mr. Robert Adair, who described the City of Houston’s LID Design Competition.

OK, Texas, we’re ready to take on the challenge, too!  As part of the G3 Academy, we will move forward.  Look for a LID Design Competition coming to your area!

Interested in greening your street and your town?  Come join our G3 Academy and visit http://www.greenhighwayspartnership.org/index.php and click on “G3 Initiative.”

 

About the author: Susan McDowell joined the EPA family in 1990.  Her work on community-based sustainability throughout her career includes the award-winning Green Communities program which has traveled across the United States and internationally.  She brings her ‘ecological’ perspective to most of her work including the G3 Initiative.

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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