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June 18, 2010

As the oil spills, did more pumps get dumped?

by Nicole Schlosser

With the BP oil spill fiasco all over the news, I’m wondering if more Americans were motivated to ditch their cars for Dump the Pump Day this time around. I know that it has personally made me even more aware of my fuel consumption, mainly for driving, and I am hoping that more transit providers participated and that this year the campaign resonated with more people.


The American Public Transportation Association’s decision to partner with two major environmental nonprofits —The Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council — for the annual campaign made the point that driving less or ditching one’s car altogether is critical for the health of our environment. Whether we choose to seek them out or not, many of us do have reasonable, affordable transportation choices. We can do more every day to protect our environment and prevent tragedies similar to what’s happening in the Gulf of Mexico right now.


In addition, the recent release of a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Highway Administration report showing that both bicycling and walking trips increased 25 percent since 2001 appears to be a sign that Americans are moving closer to driving less and embracing public transportation. It wasn’t just the recession or gas prices soaring; we were stepping up use of our alternative transit options even when the economy was good.  


In response, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced a policy change to promote bicycle and pedestrian opportunities that encourage transportation agencies to go beyond minimum standards and provide safe and convenient facilities for pedestrians and bicyclists.


Whether walking or biking, most of us need to incorporate a bus or train route into our daily commute, so public transit will become increasingly crucial as this trend grows. I personally experienced the need for transit in my brand-new bike commute this week as I hit some unanticipated — and steep — hills. Factoring in a bus route for part of the way would have been more efficient and prevented the aching muscles I experienced for a couple of days afterward.


So, are you seeing this trend play out at your agency? Are there more bikers getting on board? Are you seeing fewer cars in your park-and-ride lots and garages? Are you working with any biking groups on plans to further accommodate these commuters? How was your Dump the Pump Day turnout?



Nicole Schlosser

Senior Editor

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  • Joe Barton Fan[ June 18th, 2010 @ 2:30pm ]

    Transit agencies don't get it. Their empty overhead sign space inside every single bus and train is a lost opportunity to EDUCATE people about transit's energy efficiency, to explain what efficiency actually is, since the American public only understands conservation, which they perceive as something that reduces convenience or performance and requires the wearing of sweaters indoors. Efficiency means the same or better performance without the waste, not with less convenience. Explaining gallons per passenger mile, soldiers per gallon, did-you-knows like efficiency being able to wipe out ALL the oil we currently import AND reduce dependence to land based sources IS transit's obligation. Those spaces explain WHY hybrid buses feel faster due to more electric motor's better torque. Does the public know that? Are transit agencies teaching riders that? No. Does the public know that SF MUNI's electric fleet is entirely water powered on a dedicated line that goes under the bay all the way to Hetch Hetchy Dam in the Sierra Mountains? No. Is MUNI teachging it's riders that on their overhead spaces? No. Is any transit agency bothering to make comparisons between transit and home energy issues? Or cross promote electric cars, bikes, car sharing, transit oriented development or energy efficient housing projects? Or explain where energy comes from? No. Those blank spaces on the ceiling are THE place to have been educating people all this time about time, money, resources, maintenance, war, tax and local economic benefits, not just the environmental ones. Those spaces were an opportunity to explain and teach meaningful ideas about the very world around us that would increase ridership when gas wasn't $3 a gallon, when there was no recession, when there was no oil spill or terrorist event. Those empty spaces are not merely there to sell stuff. They are a community outreach opportunity that creates more customers.


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