Better Transit

Better Transit

Transitioning to a Lower Carbon Footprint with More and Better Transit Options

Transportation is the second largest source of greenhouse gases for both the average household and for businesses. Fortunately, there is a lot of activity right now tackling this problem at every level, with improved fuel efficiency of vehicles, the addition of electric-car-powering stations, car sharing, bike sharing, community walkability and bikeability initiatives, safe routes to school, and greater availability of mass transit.

Transition groups can have a significant impact in this area with activities to support and encourage more thoughtful transportation choices. These are just a few of the possibilities for action:

Information Sharing: Provide information in groups, on websites and social media about:

  • Energy-efficient driving techniques (hypermiling) or how to choose the most energy efficient vacation travel (like this report from the Union of Concerned Scientists)
  • Energy efficient cars - let electric- and hybrid-vehicle owners tell of their experiences
  • Car sharing - encourage people to explore programs like Car2Go or HourCar, to share their experience with Uber or Lyfte, or explore the creation of a car-sharing club with neighbors or friends (see The Sharing Solution: How to Save Money, Simplify Your Life & Build Community,” by Emily Doskow and Janelle Orsi)
  • Share bike trip resources and information on how to map routes or prepare for winter biking
  • 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 dig deeper, drawing upon the knowledge of people in the group and from community resources (like those at the University of Minnesota). For example, what’s the real impact of biofuels on the environment when you add in the fuel and carbon cost of growing biofuel crops? What are the real opportunities and risks to the community of the expansion of services like Uber?

Skill Sharing: Skill shares provide an opportunity for people to learn new skills or to build things in a fun, social setting that can include people of all ages. It's more than building things - it's building people and communities!

  • Fix and maintain a bike
  • Build a bike cart
  • Plan a trip using mass transit (how to get someplace by bike and bus, or bike and light rail)

CHALLENGE Opportunities: Making a significant behavior change can 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 on their experience:

  • Were they able to do it?
  • Did they experience any problems or barriers? How might they overcome those barriers? What resources do they need?
  • Will they try it again under new conditions?
  • Is this something they will continue to do?

Transportation challenge activities can include:

  • Carpooling
  • Taking the bus or light rail
  • Biking to work or shopping or school
  • Living with one less car (see Transition St. Anthony Park “Drop a Car”) (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.)

Partnerships for Action: There are a number of transit-focused nonprofit groups working in the Twin Cities (see sidebar). Many of these groups use volunteers. Transition groups can connect with these groups to expand the impact of the work. Or they can form their own action groups to initiate activities like:

  • A vehicle or bike-sharing club
  • A carbon-tax investment club (the Community of St. Martin has a group of members who track their carbon footprint and then donate a certain amount of money as a carbon self-tax. The group then invests that money in carbon-reduction projects.)

Transportation is a justice issue

  • Many low-paying jobs are located in areas with poor or no mass transit infrastructure, forcing low-income people into the expense of car ownership or time-consuming transit options.
  • Twin Cities residents are endangered by the presence of oil trains carrying highly volatile Bakken oil through our highly populated metropolitan area.
  • Many areas of our city are geared toward cars and only cars - making it a struggle for bikers and pedestrians to get from here to there.

Transition groups with a concern for justice issues can work to address these and other concerns.