As spring chugs along, Amtrak will soon be celebrating the seventh annual National Train Day on May 10, 2014. Started as a way to spread information about trains and the role that they still play in America’s transportation system, National Train Day is expected to be celebrated in 210 locations throughout 43 states as well as the District of Columbia. Los Angeles’s historic Union station will begin its celebration earlier, on May 3, as part of the historic passenger terminal’s 75th anniversary.
Being 16 percent more efficient than planes and 34 percent more efficient than cars, Amtrak trains are an ecologically friendly travel alternative. Not only do Amtrak trains use less energy per passenger than cars and airplanes, Amtrak now “plugs in” their locomotives at layover facilities in order to minimize diesel emissions during the train’s idling time. In addition to these measures, Amtrak also offers ways for individual passengers to offset their carbon footprint through a partnership with CarbonFund.org by way of donation.
Started after the Rail Passenger Service act in May of 1971, Amtrak’s still carries 31.5 million passengers a year and if trends continue, by 2040 ridership could reach 43.5 million. Cheaper and faster than shuttle planes, a third of Amtrak’s ridership comes from east-coast commuters traveling between New York, Boston and D.C.
If you’re interested in participating in National Train Day, head over to Amtrak's official site to search the interactive map for events near you. You can even start your own event if there’s nothing in your area.
During the first week in March, students in California’s Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD) were picked up in a new yellow school bus with a distinctly green detail: its engine. The first of its kind in the nation, KCUSD’s new wheels will not only to cut down on the effects of fossil fuel emissions to the environment, but will also improve student health by keeping the immediate air around the bus cleaner.
The new bus, aka the Trans Tech SST-e, contains an all electric powertrain, developed by Motiv power systems and is expected to save the school $10,000 in fuel costs, by itself. In a PR Newswire news release Jim Castelaz, founder and CEO of Motiv expressed his hopes for this major step in green transportation: “We are absolutely thrilled to see this school bus transporting students without exposing them to diesel exhaust. I hope that by the time my daughter is old enough to go to school clean, zero-emission school buses like this one will be the industry standard.”
Currently, KCUSD has ordered a total of four electric buses and has received funding from the California air resources board as well as the Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project. These buses are just one more step in the school becoming more environmentally friendly. “KCUSD has taken major strides to reduce diesel particulate emissions by as much as 85 percent” said Jason Flores, the school’s director of transportation.
According to Ecowatch, the bus holds either 25 students or 18 with the addition of a wheelchair lift and comes with telemetry systems for fleet management. The bus can also be 50 percent charged in less than an hour.
Photo by Motiv Power Systems
Perhaps this will be the year you'll stop thinking about bike commuting and will ride your bicycle to work during National Bike Month in May. Sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists, this month-long event encourages velo-commuting across the United States through local activities scheduled during Bike to Work Week from May 12 to 16, and Bike to Work Day on Friday, May 16, 2014.
Bike commuting has taken off in this country, with many thousands of people reporting that they pedal to work at least occasionally, if not frequently. The population of U.S. bike commuters grew by more than 47 percent from 2000 to 2011, and the number of trips made by bicycle more than doubled during the same time period, according to the National Household Travel Survey conducted by the Federal Highway Administration. Biking to work is perceived as practical and efficient by people who live within a few miles of their workplace — which is about half of us.
The rise in bike commuting is helping to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution in North American cities, as well as saving riders money on transportation costs. And bicyclists typically enjoy better physical and mental health than drivers. As Andy Clarke, President of the League of American Bicyclists, explains, “Biking to work is an efficient and fun way to get the exercise you need, without having to find extra time to work out.”
Held every year since 1956, the Bike to Work celebration focuses on attracting and encouraging new riders to the activity. More riders on the streets helps to increase motorists' awareness of bicyclists. And cycling with others reduces the anxiety felt by new riders, who become more willing to bike to work on their own. The League's research shows that many people who participate in Bike to Work Day for the first time begin biking to work regularly thereafter.
Communities across the country sponsor Bike to Work events tailored to meet the needs and interests of their local bike commuters. You can find everything from cycling classes to commuter convoys listed in the League's Bike to Work database. Find ideas for planning activities in your own community by consulting these League publications: Getting Started: National Bike Month Guide (pdf) and Plan a Bike Month Event.
The MOTHER EARTH NEWS bicycle rack — next to the EV plug-in station — is already being used by our staff commuters in anticipation of Bike to Work Week. Won't you join us in commemorating National Bike Month by pedaling to your own workplace in May?
Rebecca Martin is an Associate Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, where her beats include DIY and Green Transportation. She's an avid cyclist and has never met a vegetable she didn't like. You can find her on Google+ and Twitter.
This is a modified version of a guest post written by Zach O’Connor, Communications and Publications Coordinator for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), for Adventure Cycling Association’s Building the U.S. Bicycle Route System blog. I thought it worth sharing, with the author’s permission, on the Green Transportation blog. In it Zach explains how his coworker’s multi-modal bicycle commute from the suburbs to the heart of Washington, D.C., makes use of the District’s newly improved bicycle facilities.
Most of us commute to work in our own way, whether it’s by bike, car, walking, mass transit, or a combination of two or more of these. My commute is boring compared to those of some of my co-workers at AASHTO; I walk to my nearest Metro station, transfer downtown, and walk to the office. I pass by two Capital Bikeshare (DC’s awesome bike share system) stations on my way to work. I could use this method; however, I tend to be a bit of a transit nerd and enjoy taking Metro. AASHTO Communications Director Lloyd Brown’s commute is far more adventurous.
Lloyd commutes to work from his home in Bethesda, a Maryland suburb. At least twice a week he’ll commute by bike all the way to AASHTO’s headquarters in DC. The District has recently become known for investing in bicycle infrastructure, but how do the suburbs score? It all depends where you live.
Lloyd will leave his home and take Old Georgetown Road to either the Metro or, on the days he bicycles all the way to the office, to the Capital Crescent Bike Trail. This first leg on Old Georgetown Road is where he feels he’s taking his life into his hands, as he rides 3.5 miles on this four-lane highway full of potholes and traffic. It can be risky for a cyclist during any time of the day. Once he reaches downtown Bethesda, Lloyd is able to hop on the Capital Crescent Trail, a rail-to-trail project that is a backbone of transportation for pedestrians and bicycle commuters. The trail, which serves more than a million bikers and walkers a year, ends in Georgetown, where Lloyd will utilize the city’s bike lanes for the rest of his commute.
Although DC’s bike lane network is extensive, Lloyd has noticed some problems with both cyclists and motorists. “Cars don’t make it easy for bikes, but bikes don’t make it any easier for cars,” he says. On occasion he’ll see both drivers and bicyclists ignoring signals, while car drivers often ignore bikes on the road. The DC government banned U-turns on Pennsylvania Avenue, where there is a two-way dedicated bike lane in the middle of the street. There have been blog articles, videos, and photos posted of cars breaking the law, and thankfully their actions come with the consequences of a hefty fine. But there is equal blame to go around. On the bike trail into DC, Lloyd often wishes cyclists would show one another some common courtesy, such as alerting other riders when turning or passing another rider.
This isn’t a car vs. bike scenario, but more commuter vs. commuter. The point is to be courteous, no matter which modes of transportation you utilize. That way we can all reach our destination—the weekend—safely.
Photo by Elvert Barnes
So, I have been driving the C-MAX Energi from Ford Motor Company, I am getting a 23-27 mile state of charge. However, these miles do not degrade as quickly as when I got the car. I think the dealership did not refresh the batteries or it is a car right out of Detroit to Manhattan to my house.
However, the hubbub is I got 42 miles for a charge once for the C-MAX Energi. It’s staying now at the 20’s but they are more reliable 20’s. I think there might be some glitches with the controller and batteries. Also, people need to refresh these batteries. Refreshing batteries means to drain the electric vehicle and even hybrid electric battery packs get drained all the way down. It keeps the integrity of the batteries in check and assures a real range that’s equal to your driving style.
After speaking in 2013 with the head of the Eco gauges from Ford the C-MAX Energi, he explained that the smart gauge gave me a range related to my driving patterns.
In the right cluster, redesigned imagery of green leaves shows overall driving efficiency. The left cluster shows Brake Coach, a feature that helps drivers optimize their use of the regenerative braking system so that driving range can be enhanced through proper braking techniques.
As I reported in 2012:
C-MAX Energi also has a feature called EV+ that allows for the vehicle to stay in electric-only mode for longer durations by learning frequent destinations. The feature was developed in response to Ford research that found drivers prefer to have their vehicles be in electric-only mode whenever possible, Davis explained. “C-MAX is Ford’s first hybrid-dedicated nameplate in North America, but the ability to offer features like EV+ indicates just how deep our level of understanding and expertise is when it comes to hybrids,” said Davis.
Here is one of my videos on the test drive.
More to come!
For more test drives and stories, please visit me at GreenLivingGuy.com.
One of the best—albeit not the warmest—times of year to bicycle in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks is during the month of April.
As you can see by clicking on this link, bicycling and other means of non-motorized travel—in-line skating, walking, etc.—may be enjoyed in the world's first national park on the roads between West Yellowstone and Mammoth Hot Springs in April. The South Entrance road and part of the East Entrance road are also open to bicycles (while closed to cars), as conditions allow. The dates depend on the severity of the preceding winter and other factors; or, as the National Park Service puts it, “The first day of ‘spring bicycling’ is never predetermined and is dependent on road conditions as determined by park staff.”
To the south of Yellowstone, in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the Teton Park Road becomes one of the world’s great bike paths in April (the road opens to motor traffic on May 1). Serious plowing began this year on March 24, with rotary plows clearing the way between Moose Junction and Jackson Lake Junction, a distance of about 20 miles … 20 miles of smooth, traffic-free pavement serving up some of the most spectacular mountain views on Earth. After this past winter’s prolific snowfall, the banks will be high, but the road will be dry (for the most part).
Please note this caveat from the Park Service: “Although the Teton Park Road will open to non-motorized use, visitors should be alert for park vehicles that may occasionally travel the road for administrative purposes and for snow plowing operations that continue as a result of recurring snowstorms. … As a reminder, entrance stations are operating and collecting fees.”
Come prepared to bundle up, although there's always the chance of hitting it on an unusually warm and sunny, western Wyoming spring day. If so, enjoy!
In January 2011 Adventure Cycling Association launched a website initiative called BikeOvernights.org. Subtitled “Don’t wait to go cross country — go overnight,” the site is designed to provide inspiration, resources, and route ideas for short bicycle tours, generally just one or two nights out. Of the more than 175 destination stories that have posted at the site to date, a large share are tagged as "Family" rides. Some of the titles reveal their family orientation; e.g., “Four Days with an Almost 4-Year-Old,” “Little Elbow to Mount Romulus–A Girl’s Adventure with Grammy,” and “Hood Canal Loop: A Teen’s First Tour.”
One of the attractive aspects of these rides is that for most folks, a quick bike overnight doesn’t require a lot of travel to get to the trailhead. In many cases, they can begin and end right at the front door. Consider these words from Elle Steele Bustamante, who wrote Our First-Ever Family Weekend of Wonderfulness:
“On this, our first overnighter, we rode up to Beal’s Point on Folsom Lake, about 30 miles from Sacramento. It was the first time bike camping with our little ones. Amazing! It’s great to know that there are adventures so close to home. Really, picture a nearby campground. You probably wouldn’t ever think to camp there as, let’s face it, your own bed is much more comfortable. However, getting there by bike with all your gear strapped to the back—that’s wonderfully worthwhile.”
Wonderfully worthwhile indeed. A bike overnight is the ideal introduction to bicycle travel for young and old alike. Visit www.BikeOvernights.org to read some of these inspiring stories, then share with a friend or family member!
Or, for something a little longer, you might consider dipping your toes into the touring waters by joining one of Adventure Cycling’s special family tours: Family Fun, Erie Canal; Family Fun, Great Allegheny Passage; Family Fun, Idaho; or Family Fun, Minnesota–Paul Bunyan Trail. You can read all about them by clicking on this link.