The Impact of a Transit Strike

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The San Francisco transit strike is instructive when it comes to talking about the very real impact of public transit. Last week, Bloomberg.com estimated that the transit shutdown in put 400,000 people back on the road.

Traffic was reported to be downright unbearable. The article comments were perhaps as instructive as the article itself:

"The traffic this morning was crazy. It's not like traffic wasn't bad around the Bay Area normally, but this was just way worse. As a community we've got to look at different ways to get to work. Alternatives like real-time ridesharing can be transformative for the Bay Area. There are just too many single occupancy drivers." - Robert Collins 

Of course, here in Idaho we don't have population numbers to match the Bay Area. However, that doesn't mean that we should not be evaluating the number of single occupancy drivers on our own roads.

For example, we have 120,000 Treasure Valley Drivers who spend 1-2 hours in gridlock every single day. The costs of this gridlock add up, costing drivers approximately $350 a year in wasted gas and $1,160 a year in lost productivity.

Fortunately, we've also made positive steps towards getting single occupancy drivers off the road. For example, we have our own free Rideshare matching service. To take advantage of it, visit www.idahorideshare.com

And if you live near a bus route or safe bike route, consider taking advantage of them. Together, we can help solve gridlock problems, creating safer, cleaner, and far more pleasant communities.

Live Longer by Commuting Less

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

This USA Today post is about a year old, but the information it shares about the link between long commutes and poor health is still quite relevant and worth knowing about. The story references a study by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.

"This is the first study to show that people who commute long distances to work were less fit, weighed more, were less physically active and had higher blood pressure...all of these are strong predictors of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers."

There are plenty of reasons for the links between a long commute and ill health.

One reason is time. Time spent behind the windshield robs you of time to exercise. Ironically, you need more time to exercise if you're driving a lot because driving is such a stationary activity.

You also have less time to cook healthy foods. People who drive longer are often much more prone to reach for fast food, which can quickly take a toll on one's health and well-being.

People with long commutes usually have to get up earlier, which means inviting the poor health problems that come with inadequate sleep. 

Then there's the stress. You're losing time with your family. You're not getting anything productive done. And traffic is stressful too. 

Traffic jams, rude drivers and harsh weather conditions are enough to raise anybody's blood pressure. Stress results in hormonal changes and weaker immune systems, too.

Public transportation helps by reducing the amount of traffic on the road, which reduces the time and stress involved in making the daily commute. It also offers many commuters the option of taking a stress-free trip to work.

Instead of slamming on the breaks to avoid someone who just cut you off you could sit back in a clean, climate-controlled bus or van, enjoying a book, a game on your smart phone, or the chance to catch a short nap. You could even sip your morning coffee instead of gulping it down between lane changes.

Public transportation can't reduce distances, so if you still live 45 miles away from your job you're still going to suffer from some of the issues of reduced time and increased stress. But public transportation options can still help that time pass far more pleasantly, which is better for your health overall.

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.