The Green Issue: How to reduce your transportation waste

Published April 14, 2010

With the amount of greenhouse gases emitted from planes, trains and automobiles, the decisions you make about your method of travel have the most significant impact on your green lifestyle. As a general rule, the greenest transport is always foot power. But when walking or biking won’t cut it there are plenty of other ways to green it up.

For longer trips try to take a shuttle bus, train or light rail for anything under 1,000 miles. Planes are the environment’s worst enemy. If you’re driving it yourself, it’s best not to be a speed demon. You reduce your fuel efficiency by 10 percent for every five miles per hour you drive above 55. (Yes, Mr. Sammy Hagar, that applies to you as well.) Try keeping your engine between 1,200 and 3,000 RPMs and between 2,000-2,500 when up-shifting. Avoiding sudden starts and stops not only saves gas but also extends the life of your engine.

Regular car maintenance, like properly inflating tires, performing timely oil changes and removing unnecessary items from your car will all help with fuel efficiency as well. Leave your car running as little as possible, especially when waiting to pick people up. If you’re planning to idle any longer than a minute, go ahead and kill the engine.

The real green go-getters can look into buying a hybrid vehicle or one that runs on alternative fuels like bio-diesel, ethanol, straight vegetable oil or electricity. Taxis are another way to cut back, especially pedi-cabs. They’re already on the road. Might as well use them.

Public transportation is also always a good option. Hopping on the bus allows you to meet your neighbors, avoid traffic, save money and even improve your health. If you’re new to the game you can start with a goal of using public transport one day per week. Lucky for us Sarasota County Area Transit, or SCAT, has become one of the greenest bus systems running in Florida. An upcoming addition of six new bio-diesel busses will bring their count of eco-friendly vehicles to 20 out of a 53-bus fleet.

Chad Engle, transit maintenance manager for SCAT, says a big monetary boost from the county put them ahead of the green curve. “I came in 2006 and that was when the county ramped up our budget,” says Engle. “Later that same year they wanted us to add some night service and Sunday service. So that was like 43 percent additional dollars, which was a big commitment for them. They really wanted us to do more.”

Recent developments have made it even easier for Sarasotans to live green, due to a company we’ve been hearing a lot about these days. “We’ve partnered with Google to be involved with Google Transit so people can log in to see very detailed routes and times,” says Engle. “We’ve been working with Google for over a year now just making sure we have everything correct and that should be up and running by the summer. … That is a major project to put into place for an area like ours, so it’s a big vision thing. I would say that we’re pretty progressive for the size of community we are.”

Not only is Sarasota County a champion for the environment, but their cooperation with Manatee County Area Transit, or MCAT, can save our collective citizens some serious cash. “Something that we do that people don’t know is that we link with our neighbor to the north,” says Engle. “You can get from downtown Sarasota to Anna Maria for 75 cents, 35 cents for seniors. We have the best transportation bargain for your money.”

For read all of Creative Loafing’s Green Issue coverage, click here.

Photo courtesy Sarasota Pedicab Company

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