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?