Coordinating Transportation Can Help Lower Carbon Footprint

By Chrisophia Somerfeldt 

As fuel prices rise and the planet heats up, many of us are re-evaluating the ways that we use energy. Transportation is no exception. People across the county are working to transform our habits and systems for getting around, and you can too.

World-wide, transportation consumes over 60 percent of the oil, and about one-fourth of the total energy used each year. Locally and nationally, use of public transit has been slowly increasing but personal cars and trucks still use three times more energy than bus, rail, boat and air travel combined.

While shifting our personal and collective choices may seem daunting, new local initiatives are making it easier to “green your ride” and make your transportation choices more sustainable.  A coalition led by the Ithaca-Tompkins County Transportation Council has launched a locally-tailored ride-sharing website called Zimride Tompkins.  Ithaca Carshare now offers an Easy Access membership plan for income-qualified people. The Downtown Ithaca Alliance and ‘Faster & Farther Network’ of transportation providers and planners are working together to enhance urban transit service and connectivity. In addition, Tompkins County will be the site for a research and development project by “ITN Everywhere,” a national innovator in using available resources to meet the transportation needs of underserved people in the community.

Try Zimriding!

Sharing a ride is a great way to cut costs, make connections, and slash your fossil fuel footprint. You can start by asking friends, neighbors and co-workers to share trips to work, events, errands, or out of town destinations.

Post your trips on Zimride.com/tompkins to find rides or riders and Zimride will notify you of potential matches. If you commute more than a few miles, consider using Zimride to find people interested in vanpooling together. VPSI Vanpooling will provide a monthly contract and a comfortable, reliable passenger van. The main driver can use the van for some personal trips, and often rides for free.

More options for saving money

Dividetheride.com is a website that helps create carpools among parents and other caregivers who already know each other. It helps set up a carpool schedule, sends reminder text and email messages, and re-shuffles drivers when a conflict arises. Your child’s coach or group leader may be able to encourage people to sign up.

Alternatively, you may want to curb your car and take a bus or train. On average, mass transit is three times more fuel-efficient than driving alone and you can work, read, or relax along the way.

Another option is to simply skip a trip. Is telecommuting an option for particular projects or workdays? Can you hold a meeting over the phone or Web? Try combining several errands into one outing, or trading trips to the grocery store or library with a neighbor.

When you drive, you can cut your costs and energy use by keeping tires properly inflated, avoiding idling, and going easy on the gas and brake pedals. Lastly, consider parking sooner and taking a mood-boosting, calorie-burning walk to the door.

Together, we can take charge of our transportation and made Tompkins County a model of sustainable, equitable community mobility. For more information or to get involved, contact Way2Go at 272-2292 or staff@way2goinfo.org, or visit our website at way2goinfo.org.

Chrisophia Somerfeldt is Program Manager of Way2Go, a program of Tompkins County Cooperative Extension promoting transportation equity and sustainability.

Ithaca Journal 2-25-11

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