CTAI Blog

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.

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.

Ahh! Transit benefits about to expire!

Monday, November 22, 2010

If you take transit to get to work each day, this coming January you could pay more out of your own pocket when the transit tax deduction gets cut in half. Meanwhile drivers will keep their full parking benefit, which is double what transit commuters will be eligible to receive. For those who spend more than $120 a month on your commute in a vanpool, train or bus, the federal government will be sending a message loud and clear: they’d like you to start driving to work, where you can get $230 for parking deducted from your paycheck tax free.

A provision in the stimulus bill increased the transit benefit from $120 to $230, finally putting it on equal footing with the $230 parking benefit and extending this great benefit to everyone, whether they drive or take transit each day. But that provision is about to expire unless Congress votes to extend it during their December session.

Transportation is the second largest household expense for many households. The millions of Americans who depend on transit to get to work each day shouldn’t have to pay more to do something that also saves us energy, reduces congestion and emissions, and uses less oil.

If you do not think it is fair, then tell congress! Transportation for America has setup a petition you can sign to urge Congress to restore the transit benefit and make it equal to the parking benefit. Signatures will be delivered December 1, so you must act fast! (Source: Transportation for America)