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.

Ride-Sharing meets Public Transportation

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

The European Union, despite battling different cultural approaches to 'timeliness', boasts a strong movement towards ride-sharing. Perhaps due to the extremely high costs of car ownership, European ride-sharing services have grown to the hundreds of thousands in membership, with the largest service, www.CarPooling.com, boasting 1 Million members. (By contrast, the largest ride-sharing platforms in the US book approximately 20,000 rides per month.)

The greatest challenge in providing ride-sharing services, as we've seen demonstrated time and again in the US, tends to be lack of available rides to destinations that members actually plan to travel to. These large European networks have solved this dillemma and even won over those users who may have been dubious by implementing intricate user profiles as well as member reviews, creating strong trust in forming and utilizing the ride-sharing network.

What's more, CarPooling.com- based in Munich- and it's French runner up, BlaBlaCar, claim to be inter-modal methods of booking transportation. Currently, although it's possible to book bus, train, and plane tickets in addition to setting up ride-shares, these networks allow users to book only one format of travel at a time. Both sites are working to overcome this. As reported by TriplePundit.com, Odile Beniflah, a Senior Product Manager at Carpooling, says that hasn’t stopped motivated users from manually creating complex multi-modal itineraries, one leg at a time. Read the full article here.

Here in the States, we can only hope to see Ridesharing grow to the degree where interacting with Trains, Buses, and Airplanes becomes a challenge. Start small by carpooling to work, and see how your efforts pay off to save you time and money. Know also that all of your ride-sharing efforts are helping ease congestion and pollution!

How much time do you waste on your Commute?

Friday, February 22, 2013

By the year 2020, you can expect your commute to eat up another 7 hours per year and to burn through 6 more gallons of gas annually. 

A new report on America's congestion was developed by Texas A & M drawing from data compiled by Inrix, the leading traffic information and driver services hub. This report clearly indicates that our traffic situation, already bad, is only going to get worse. 

Increasing traffic numbers are not necessarily a direct result of population growth, Robert Miles, the region 2 traffic operations engineer at the Utah Department of Transportation says. “Each one of us travels more vehicle miles per year. People are just driving more every day... It’s not always as simple as add more lanes, add more lanes,” Miles said. “We have to be more creative and smarter than that.”

The A & M Report shows that cities whose travel times ranked lowest can attribute their successes to several factors including: Carpool Lanes, Public Transit lines, and even metered freeway on-ramps. Clearing crashes quickly and efficiently, and diverting traffic cleverly in the case of construction are crucial efforts as well, but the truest benefits can be seen in communities who responsibly plan for and encourage mass transit, alternative forms of transportation like walking or biking, and ridesharing.


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.

HOV Lanes Bill for Idaho's Metropolitan Areas Dies in Committee

Friday, February 25, 2011

Rep. Phyllis King presented a bill that would allow most Idaho communities to introduce High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes to the House Transportation and Defense Committee earlier last week. The intent of this bill was to allow the metropolitan areas of the state to create and access the HOV lane and to allow ITD maintenance vehicles performing maintenance to access these lanes. Under current law, HOV lanes are restricted to counties with a populations of less than 25,000. CTAI Executive Director, Heather Wheeler, testified in support of the bill as this is one tool which can improve mobility in Idaho. Details of the bill can be found at this link. http://bit.ly/hTs2rd

Although the House Transportation and Defense Committee voted 10-5 to hold the bill in Committee, Ms. Wheeler will continue to work with committee members to obtain an understanding of their concerns regarding HOV lanes and to educate them on the positive impact HOV lanes have on the overall transportation system.