Bay Area Counties Compete to Curb Solo Auto Commutes

traffic_small.jpgYuck. Photo: izahorsky

In an effort to curb solo commuting and educate employees at various city and county agencies, and at several touchstone regional employers, 511.org and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District are sponsoring the "Great Race for Clean Air" in August and September. The event is similar to TransForm’s CarFree Challenge or the SFBC’s Gas-Free Fridays, but the focus is more on employers and education in the workplace.

Lilian Chan, a Transportation Demand Management Coordinator for the San Francisco Department of the Environment, said the goal is not only to get employers to sign up and engage in friendly competition to reduce greenhouse gas emission from employee commutes over two months this summer, but to engage with them in longer-term education campaigns and ultimately alter commute patterns. 

"We’re hoping to get larger employers involved to get their support in
encouraging alternative transportation for their employees," she said.

The employers will compete with similar-sized companies in each county and the winners will receive a special commendation by county authorities. Though this is the first year the event will be held, the various resource teams in each county hope the Great Race catches on and becomes an annual tradition.

Be sure to sign up before the July 15th deadline and encourage your employer to promote the event if they don’t already.

  • david vartanoff

    None of these counties acted to block the Caldecott Fourth Bore, nor did they push MTC to adopt a bridge toll system with serious disincentives for SOV’s. Instead they reduced the savings for carpooling.

  • Jeffrey W. Baker

    The BAAQMD will go to any lengths to avoid the obvious way of reducing traffic and air pollution, which is either a $5/gallon gas tax or a $20 freeway toll. Either would reduce traffic lickety-split.

  • JWB, agreed. Or maybe stopping the 4th bore? Or maybe not playing cutesy games to get people out of the cars with no real alternatives? It’s a show piece, some suits can pat themselves on the back, take some pictures, and nothing changes.

  • 0101!

    Dont know if yall noticed, but awhile back when gas went above 5 bucks a gallon, the housing bubble burst! So I’m not sure how that will solve existing problems, if anything it punishes those who live in the suburbs. I think the solution should be more aimed at encouraging or incentivizing the use of transit to and from work.

  • 0101! I think that speaks volumes to the razor thing margin we make people live on to fulfill some “American dream” of a lifestyle. Yes, housing in Tracy is “cheaper” upfront, but add in transportation costs (i.e. car, gas, etc) and all over a sudden you are spending as much if not more to live out there. That isn’t even bringing into account lost time and productivity.

  • tony

    The BAAQMD’s “Spare the Air” days are another useless tool at their disposal. People who care about the air are already doing something about it. Wait until the next Spare the Air Day and see how traffic levels and transit ridership stay exactly the same.

    What’s the prize anyway? Other than an award and pat on the back.

  • Jeffrey W. Baker

    “Spare the Air” days are actually extremely annoying to habitual transit users because all the freeloading car drivers cram onto BART without paying any fare. I always thought they should do the opposite: any *new* BART card sold on a Spare the Air day should have a minimum balance of $100. That gives drivers an investment in the transit system they’ll want to use.

  • 0101!

    @mike, I was also considering dense suburbs in SoCal as well. Even though they are not sprawl-like , their design make it inherently advantageous to drive just about everywhere, especially to work. You’ve got to understand that a commute to LA from Orange County or the Inland Empire is about as far as SF to Santa Cruz (minus about 10 miles). The incentivization I mentioned, comes into play there. I understand that this is article is focused on the Bay, but best practices should be brainstormed from a variety of perspectives and implemented accordingly

    and @Jeffrey Baker, isn’t that completely contradictory to what this entire blog is about? Aren’t we trying to encourage transit ridership instead of being annoyed when it actually happens? Maybe it can be noted that if transit ridership increased to the amount that it becomes on Spare the Air days, that major improvements must be made. Now comes the question of which comes first, the improvments or the ridership, the Chicken or the Egg…

  • Jeffrey W. Baker

    I see what you’re saying 0101! and it makes some sense, but from the perspective of a transit rider, Spare the Air days punish them and reward drivers. Spare the Air days reward habitual polluters by giving them free transit tickets, and punish dedicated transit riders by making their trips slower and more crowded.

  • @0101! I was just using Tracy as an example myself. Dense suburbs are still suburbs in the fact that the only viable mode of transportation is private automobiles – could be socal, Seattle, or Springfield. But incentives would have to be pretty big to pull people from the hugely subsidized status-quo. So I’d argue the incentive is in removing the subsidies.

    @JWB, I don’t think they do free transit on “Spare the Air” days anymore anyway – so that is a bit of a dated argument. And if we get a ton of people on transit (like what happened after the eyebar broke on the bay bridge), then they’ll see it is grossly inadequate to handle anymore demand and maybe those same people will vote for increased funding. They may return to their cars right away, but if they see improvements they may be tempted back onto PT.

    And on that note, 0101!, I’d say that ridership will come before improvements. Which means both will come much slower then possible.

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