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April 09, 2008

Going The "Green' Way

Earth Day is coming and with the reawakening of the planet, our thoughts turn to “going green”. We drink our overpriced lattes in cups made with recycled material, feeling pretty good about saving our planet as we drive away in our SUV, getting 12 miles to the gallon. We’re in denial and reluctant to change our selfish habits.

As the US dollar plummets in value, we wonder why lower gas consumption doesn’t lead to lower prices. And we shake our heads in amazement as the third world mimics us by embracing the automobile, adding to competition for this dwindling resource of energy.

Transportation is one of the biggest energy hogs in the US. And now that gas has reached more realistic levels compared the rest of the developed world, we’re all wondering what we can do to drive and spend less.

A few ideas:

Live Closer To Work: If we didn’t have to travel an hour to get to and from our jobs, the savings would be immense. Of course, this assumes we can find affordable housing… another topic altogether. But if you’re house-shopping, factor in transportation time and expense into the “total cost of ownership”.

Car Pool: Even if just occasionally, share the ride to work or the airport. Check out www.nuride.com for an incentives-based solution. Or for regular commutation, www.metropool.com or www.rideshare.com can help you find someone to share the ride with. Even soccer moms have their own network to get their kids from games to dance class: www.dividetheride.com

Try A Bike: For local trips in good weather, the exercise will do you good. And if you bike to or from the train station you can chuckle as you skip the four-year waiting line for a $300 annual parking permit. Not enough bike racks at the station? Call town hall and demand they spend that parking money on this simple, green amenity.

Take The Bus: Our region’s bus service is improving and is increasingly popular. “The Coastal Link” bus from Milford to Norwalk along Rt. 1 runs seven days a week and costs only $1.50 (vs. $3.50 on Metro-North). And the “I-Bus” from Stamford and Greenwich to White Plains has been running now for a decade and still costs only $2.50. Coming soon, BRT or “Bus Rapid Transit” offering faster speeds in cool new coaches.

Put Your Kids on the School Bus: Your tax dollars pay for them, so why do so many moms insist on driving their kids to school each morning in “the SUV parade”? What are you teaching your kids about avoiding mass transit?

Walk: Health officials say Manhattan dwellers are healthier than their suburban counterparts because they walk so much. Cars offer convenience, but going to the store for a quart of milk doesn’t have to involve moving two tons of steel with you to achieve the purchase.

Take The Train: Commuter rail is the most fuel efficient transportation alternative, far better than even the bus. On longer journeys, an Amtrak Acela uses a third less fuel per passenger than a jetliner and emits 3 times less CO2 . And by train, you don’t have to take off your shoes or enjoy a TSA-massage on your way to the boarding lounge.

If You Must Drive, Plan Your Itinerary: Don’t just drive roundtrip from home to the store. Save up errands and plan multiple stops along the way.

Clearly, there are alternatives to the single-occupancy, gas guzzling automobile. What’s your energy-saving transportation tip? Share it with me and I’ll include it in a future column.

2 comments:

Lynne said...

Hi Jim-I've been to the Coastal Link website to find out about schedules, bus stops, etc. I live in Westport just midway between stop #5 and stop #4, Stop #4 is right next to where I work, so I would love to take the bus. What to do if I don't live near a bus stop?

Jim Cameron said...

Lynne...

Good for you for considering mass transit!

If I'm not mistaken, the bus may make extra stops if you "hail" it between stops. Just stand by the road and wave as it approaches.

I'll check on this with the bus folks and post a reply here.

JC