Posted May 11, 2017 in Articles
Author: Ginger Christ, The Plain Dealer
CLEVELAND, Ohio - When it comes to commuting, the car is not the only way to go.
A regional transportation planning organization has launched a new trip planning tool to encourage commuters to rethink the single-occupancy vehicle and make greener choices when it comes to travel.
Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA)'s Gohio Commute, which can be accessed via the website or app, is designed to show commuters the environmental and financial cost of their transportation choices and to provide alternatives.
"Every time you leave your car at home, you are making a difference for clean air," said Grace Gallucci, NOACA executive director, during a press event across from the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Transit Center. "If we all do our part, we can reduce air pollution and make Northeast Ohio a cleaner place to live, work and play, which saves us all time and money."
In the Greater Cleveland area alone, there are nearly 400 premature deaths each year caused by air pollution from mobile emissions.
"Clean air is something that we all want and need. But, as many are surprised to learn, our air isn't as clean as we think. In fact, our region struggles to meet standards for several pollutants that affect public health," Gallucci said. "Clearly, fewer cars on the road would help but how do we achieve that in a region that was literally built for cars?"
Using the Gohio Commute website, commuters can enter trip information and see options for carpooling, vanpooling, driving, biking, walking or using public transit. Each choice lists the amount of CO2 emissions created, the cost, the time, the distance and the number of calories burned.
For example, by driving into downtown Cleveland from Lakewood, a commuter creates 4 pounds of CO2 one way and spends roughly $3 before parking. Those emissions can be reduced by taking public transit (3 pounds of CO2), carpooling or biking, all of which still keep the commute around half an hour and cost less.
Improving air quality not only positively affects the environment but also public health, as local doctors attested.
"Programs like this that make it easier for people to find alternative methods of transportation are truly important to the future of our children's health," said Dr. Kristie Ross, clinical director of pediatric pulmonology, allergy and immunology at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital.
Exposure to poor air quality at a young age affects lung growth and makes children more likely to develop asthma and other respiratory problems, Ross explained.
Likewise, having more pollutants in the air is harmful to seniors and can cause asthma and even chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, said Dr. James Campbell, director of geriatric health for The MetroHealth System.
"It really is something that impacts the day-to-day life of our seniors," Campbell said.
But changing commuting habits is a challenge.
"I think about this the way I think about any behavior change that's going to impact health," Ross said.
She recommends making gradual changes in commuting patterns in order to make it a sustainable choice.
The Gohio Commute allows users to compete against others, earn badges and win prizes to encourage making travel changes. And companies can create private sites within the platform for their employees.