Live Cleaner with Better Transit Options

Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. and the second largest source in Minnesota.

Thousands of people suffer worsening health problems — asthma, COPD, and even diabetes — because of the toxic pollutants found in fuel exhaust. Every improvement we make to reduce our use of fossil fuels makes our air cleaner and keeps our families healthier.

Fortunately, progress is being made and there are an increasing number of transportation options that everyday people can use to reduce their carbon “wheelprint.”

On this page we’ll help you think about steps you can take yourself or in a group to make the transition to less polluting transportation. Then click through to the transit resource page for organizations that can help you power down your ride, for individuals, faith communities, businesses and municipalities.

You can stay  informed about transit issues by following Move Minnesota and if you’re new to thinking about transit issues, consider following the ever-entertaining blog StreetsMN.

What’s Your Plan?

Let’s go back to your Energy Descent Action Plan. You’ve got a lot of choices for reducing your carbon footprint when it comes to transportation.

Start simple. If you’ve got a car, try energy-efficient driving techniques like hypermiling. Research the most energy efficient way to travel on your vacation (see thee Get There Greener Report from the Union of Concerned Scientists).

Start to switch: According to the EPA, car trips of one mile or less add up to 10 billion miles traveled by Americans each year. What if you made a commitment to walk or bike for any trip within 1 mile from home? You’d get more exercise, you might meet your neighbors, and you will definitely cut your emissions.

But it’s just so easy to get in the car … If you didn’t have a car sitting in your driveway, would it be easier choose a people-powered option? In the non-snow seasons, you could try parking your car a block from home so you really have to think about using it.

Share the ride: Explore carpooling with co-workers or switching from a car to the bus or light rail. Does your business offer a vanpool? (Could they if you asked?) Metro Transit offers a carpool location service on their website.

Many people are afraid to carpool because they are worried that they might need to leave for an emergency – a sick kid, a daycare problem. Check out Metro Transit’s Guaranteed Ride Home. If you have an eligible emergency on a day you commuted by carpool, vanpool, biked, walked or took transit, Metro Transit will help you get home with a FREE and reliable ride.

Share the resource: Do you really need to own a car? If you drive less than 100 miles a week, and less than 5 days a week, why not try a car-sharing service. HourCar is a car-sharing nonprofit serving the Twin Cities area. You could also consider car-sharing with a neighbor. (See The Sharing Solution: How to Save Money, Simplify Your Life & Build Community for ideas about how to create a car-sharing contract).

NiceRide is the bike-sharing service that operates in Minneapolis. If your community doesn’t have a bike-sharing service, consider starting your own, or working with your municipality to recruit a business.

Ditch fossil fuels – Go electric: It’s more costly, but an electric bike or an electric (or hybrid) car will provide the carbon savings you want while still getting you where you need to go. Learn more about electric vehicles at Drive Electric Minnesota. It’s true that your car’s carbon footprint is dependent on the footprint of your energy provider, but Minnesota’s largest energy provider is becoming greener and so is your ride. (See the Union of Concerned Scientists How Clean is Your Electric Vehicle tool to see how much CO2e your electric vehicle is responsible for.) Add in a solar garden subscription or home solar installation and you’ve reduced the carbon footprint of your energy even more.

Electric bikes are a great option for seniors and people with disabilities who may need a little assistance going the distance or getting up hills. There are several shops in the Twin Cities the specialize in electric bikes.

TRANSIT OPTIONS FOR LOW INCOME PEOPLE

If you are low income, you may be living without a car, or with an undependable car. Reliable, affordable transportation options may be most important for you. On this page, Share the Ride and Share the Resource ideas may be useful strategies for occasional or work-related car needs. For low-cost car repairs, see the Lift Garage, a nonprofit providing car repair services to help people out of poverty and homelessness.

If busing works for you but rising costs are a problem, check out Metro Transit’s Transit Assistance Program (TAP). Consider asking your employer to provide discounted or free bus passes as an employee benefit.

If busing won’t get you all the way to your destination, consider a bus-bike combination. Check out the shops listed on Mpls Bike Love for locations where you may be able to find a low-cost bike.

Bring the Idea of Powerdown to Your Community

Transition groups (or green teams or creation care teams) can support people in getting better,  cleaner transportation options in a variety of ways. These are just a few possible actions:

Information Sharing

  • Host a presentation about electric vehicles and invite owners to talk about their personal experience. PlugInConnect can help you find speakers.
  • Share information about HourCar, including sign-up opportunities. The organization has a special U of M student/faculty rate of only $40.
  • Advertise opportunities for group members to provide input into transit development or transit changes in your community. Share public hearing dates, survey members about their transit needs, and share that information with elected officials.

Myth-Busting

There is a lot of greenwashing in the marketplace. Transition groups can draw on the knowledge of people in the group and from community resources (like the University of Minnesota or the Union of Concerned Scientists) to help people find the facts and understand the real impact of electric cars, biofuels, and flying.

Hands-on Skillshare Events

Skillshares provide an opportunity for people to learn new skills or to build things in a fun, social setting. Because it’s social, people are more willing to try something new. Groups can host a skillshare event for:

  • Bikes: Learn how to fix and maintain a bike, build a bike cart, plan a bike trip and map routes, or prepare for winter biking
  • Mass Transit: Host a Meet the Bus event to familiarize people with how to use the bus and how to plan a trip. Be sure to talk about multi-modal transit and how they can take their bike on the bus.

Start a Challenge to Change

Behavior changes often seem impossible until you actually do it. Challenges give people a specific activity to do for a specific amount of time. After they’ve done it, participants report to each other about their experience. Did they experience any problems or barriers? How might they overcome those barriers? What resources do they need?

Transportation challenge activities can include:

  • Carpooling for a month
  • Taking the bus or light rail for a week
  • Biking to work or shopping or school
  • Living with one less car — see Transition St. Anthony Park’sDrop a Car” challenge. (Did you know 18% of Minneapolis households and 14% of St. Paul households don’t own a car? The car ownership overage is 1.3 vehicles per household in Minneapolis and 1.5 in St. Paul.) Dropping a car may be harder to do in suburbs and rural areas, but group members may find ways to help each other succeed.

Partners in Action

Transition groups can help kickstart partnerships, for example:

  • A truck-sharing club (everyone needs a truck sometime; most of us don’t need one all of the time).
  • An alternative gas tax (carbon-tax investment) club like that of the Community of St. Martin. Members track their miles and then donate a certain amount of money as a carbon self-tax. The group invests that money in carbon-reduction projects.

Transportation is a Justice Issue

Transition groups with a concern for justice can look for ways to address — among other things — poor mass transit availability in their community, increasingly higher costs for mass transit, and the problem urban sprawl. In some communities — like Olympia, Washington and Corvalis, Oregon — bus fare is covered by taxes so anyone can just get on the bus and ride!

Many communities were built to prioritize cars, making it a dangerous struggle for bikers and pedestrians to get from here to there. When road work is done in your community, how can you ensure it’s done with everyone in mind, including schoolchildren and elderly walkers?

See the resource page for organizations you can partner with to move transportation justice issues to the next level.

Join us on the journey to cleaner, safer transportation.