CTAI Blog

Sustainability through Public Transit

Monday, May 06, 2013
By: Dave Doran, CTAI District 5 Mobility Manager

Many consider public transit to be a cost effective and practical alternative to driving. Indeed, public transit services provide citizens with an economical choice on how to move about their community, but these services also provide significant values in terms of sustainability. Public transit use increases both short and long-term sustainability in multiple sectors of our economy including business, personal and regional health and the environment. 

The use of public transit can free up financial resources individuals might otherwise have dedicated to the operation and maintenance of a personal vehicle. This has the potential to create more economic stability within the individual’s family / household and ultimately less stress for resources. In the long term, increased use of transit also creates jobs -generating more economic prosperity in a progressive industry and reducing American consumption and dependence on non-renewable and foreign energy sources.  The use of other forms of transit, like shuttles and vanpools, is also good for employers and their business development. Having a vanpool or another transportation choice to get employees to work can allow employers to draw a more competitive workforce from beyond the immediate vicinity and from the greater region. It can also increase safety and punctuality to the worksite, and reduce absenteeism and stress in the workforce; all of which increase productivity and generate added corporate revenue. This industry potential can also draw more businesses to Idaho communities creating increased regional economic prosperity.

By taking cars off the road, public transit also reduces carbon dioxide and other harmful particulate matter emitted into the atmosphere through vehicle emissions, which improves regional air quality and citizen health. In addition, most public transit trips begin and end with a pedestrian or bicycle trip to and from the transit stop. Consequently, those who use transit as a regular source of transportation are more likely to be physically active than their single-occupancy-vehicle driving counterparts. This is a critical thought when you consider that in 2011, 27% of Idaho adults were considered obese and that over $320 million dollars was spent in Idaho in 2010 on related health concerns (Landis Nov. 9, 12). Having a more physically active society will ultimately reduce obesity rates and expenditures on other health related concerns, sustaining a healthier environment on multiple planes. 

Public transportation services also provide a sustainable contribution to communities by ultimately preserving tax-based infrastructure and departmental expenditures dedicated to maintaining roads and bridges. This is essential for states like Idaho who have large transportation networks covering many miles of roads, with a small population base to adequately support such infrastructure.

Additionally, public transportation industries are becoming more sustainable in and of themselves. Through the incorporation of intermodal transit facilities,and moving one step further by implementing architecturally certified Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards for those facilities, transit agencies like Pocatello Regional Transit (PRT) are paving the way for sustaining public transit services in a strained national economic state. With the utility cost savings PRT will soon realize in their LEED –Silver certified intermodal transit facility, public funds can potentially be dedicated to expand and improve service operations. Additionally,considering technological advancements in alternative fuel sources like compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquid propane auto-gas, transit agencies have additional opportunities to increase their already dedicated involvement in sustaining the health, environment and economic stability of our country. 

*Landis, Bruce W. “The Dollars and Sense of Bicycling and Walking: Idaho’s Statewide Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan Stakeholders Groups’ Kick-off” Roadshow.”  Nov. 9, 2012.

New ways to save, when driving alone is the only option...

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

May in Motion was a call to encourage individuals to ditch their single occupancy vehicle and ride the bus, walk, bike, or carpool. My personal May in Motion challenge was to carpool and take the bus once a week, when the children were taken to piano by their dad. My success was great for carpooling, but I never quite made it on the bus.

As parents, it is hard to leave the car behind, particularly when you are concerned with potential emergencies and sick kids during the day. Locally, I had the option of signing up for the “Emergency Ride Home Program” from ACHD Commuteride. But I found excuses to get around it and found someone to carpool with me everyday instead.

The challenge came week three when I had several meetings and needed the vehicle at odd times, so carpooling was not an option and I drove alone. Although I did carpool the final week, I found out how easy it is to fall back into the convenience of driving alone.

So if it is this easy to find excuses to drive, how can I save money and lower my carbon footprint? With all the improvements in technology, I figured there must be something out there to help all of us who need to drive but can’t afford to buy a more fuel efficient vehicle. So I did some research and found that Garmin nuvi navigation systems have ecoRoute software that routes the most fuel efficient way to get where you need to go. More importantly, there is a unit called the ecoRoute HD which connects to your vehicles OBD II port and acts as a diagnostic system.

According to the Garmin website, the ecoRoute HD provides customizable gauges to monitor RPM, air/fuel mixture, oil pressure, oil temp, coolant temp, air flow, fuel flow, air pressure, and more; reads Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTC) allows you to view over 4000 trouble codes, their meaning, and reset the check engine light; and, also accurate fuel consumption data can actually help you improve MPG.

So I purchased the ecoRoute HD for $87 on Amazon.com and to save money, I swapped smart phones with a coworker in order to install the Garmin Mechanic software that works on the Android platform. I tried it this past week but in all honesty, I didn’t understand the readings to well. I actually gave up on trying this with the phone as it didn't connect half the time.


Yesterday I purchased the Garmin nuvi 1490T  (a great deal at $139 after a $20 Costco rebate) to test my fuel savings and carbon footprint. Over the next few weeks I will diligently track my ecoRoute results, learn more about what the readings are telling me, and see how my gas mileage or driving improves! In addition, I am committed to carpooling to work and other appointments or meetings when possible.

Compressed Natural Gas as an Alternative Fuel Source

Tuesday, November 09, 2010
Compressed Natural Gas, otherwise known as CNG, is growing in popularity as an alternate source of fuel across the United States. In Idaho, Allied Waste has set the example by converting all of its trash collection vehicles to run on CNG, in addition, Valley Ride in Ada County runs several of the Boise buses on CNG. This fuel has a reputation of being a cleaner and less expensive alternative to traditional gasoline and diesel. In addition, using natural gas would reduce our dependence on foreign oil. There are many vehicle types that can be fueled by CNG, including passenger cars and trucks, passenger and cargo vans, utility trucks, cutaways, shuttle buses, and heavy-duty trucks and buses.

The price of CNG is on average $0.80 to $1.25 less per gasoline gallon equivalent, and give the price of gas, that savings is going to increase. In addition, there are tax credits available to convert vehicles and for the purchase of new CNG fueled vehicles. The cost of a typical conversion pays for itself in about 4.2 years and assumes a life-cycle savings of $8,000 over a seven year period (source: Shift to CNG).

The problem in Idaho is the lack of public fueling stations. The opportunity is that federal funding is available to help set up fueling stations along major corridors of the state.

So what would it take for you to change over to CNG?