Of all your daily activities, driving a car or truck is probably the single most polluting thing you do. But if you’re a typical Texan, sliding behind the wheel of your motor vehicle is something you do just about every day, or even several times a day. The consequences of all that driving can have a major impact on our region’s air quality. Motor vehicles also emit large amounts of carbon dioxide and a number of air toxins such as benzene. Air toxins can cause serious health problems, including cancer.
In the DFW Metroplex, motor vehicle emissions account for about 56 percent of the ozone forming precursors and are the single greatest contributors to ground-level ozone. Ozone pollution causes respiratory problems, including coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath, and can lead to permanent lung damage.
Participation in pollution control efforts can help improve our region’s air quality, reduce health impacts and offer significant financial incentives. The American Automobile Association estimates that it cost you 41.8 cent per mile to operate your car or truck. Based on this, by ridesharing every day with a round-trip commute of 20 miles, you can save up to $167 a month on gas, insurance, parking fees and wear and tear on your vehicle. Additionally, your insurance premiums could go down as much as 20 percent by designating your automobile for pleasure-use only. Also, don't forget that the resale value of your automobile will be much higher because the vehicle will have fewer miles on the odometer.
You can drive cleaner by making the most of your traveling options. Mass transit, carpooling, vanpooling, bicycling, walking, telecommuting and alternative work schedules are all ways to help reduce motor vehicle emissions by reducing single-occupancy vehicles. This is important because Americans drive more than two trillion miles per year, a figure that is double what it was 20 years ago and still on the rise. If we want to protest the quality of our air and our health, we must make major changes in the vehicles we drive and in our driving habits.
You can make a significant difference by riding mass transit instead of driving alone. For instance, one person using mass transit for a year instead of driving to work can keep an average of 9.1 pounds of hydrocarbons, 62.5 pounds of carbon monoxide and 4.9 pounds of nitrogen oxides from being discharged into the air. A high concentration of these elements can be harmful to our health.
If mass transit is not available, carpooling is another option. Carpooling is easy and the most common way of ridesharing. A carpool consists of two to six people sharing a ride in a private vehicle. Just boosting the occupancy of vehicles during rush hour from one person to a two-person carpool would save 40 million gallons of gasoline a day nationwide (or more than 15 percent of the U.S. gasoline consumption), while reducing the number of vehicles on the road.
Here’s how carpooling cuts vehicle emissions: Suppose 100 employees who normally drive 20 miles round-trip to work (10 miles each way) decide to commute in pairs instead of driving alone. In two weeks' time, their choice would eliminate 10,000 miles of vehicle travel. They would save 75 pounds of hydrocarbons, 30 pounds of nitrogen oxides, 550 pounds of carbon monoxide, 9,900 pounds of carbon dioxide, and 500 gallons of gasoline.
Vanpooling consist of seven to fifteen passengers sharing a van with convenient pick-up and destination point. A primary driver volunteers to do all the driving, with back up drivers available, if needed. The remaining individuals are charged a fee. In Tarrant County's case our employees van fee is subsidized to reduce their cost.
Bicycling and Walking
Bicycling and walking are inexpensive and environmentally sound alternatives to motor vehicles. Each work related trip represents a 100 percent drop in vehicle emissions.
Telecommuting allows employees to either stay at home or travel to a satellite work center located closer to home than the primary worksite. Telecommuting is the transporting of information rather than individuals. It is important to understand that telecommuting does not necessarily require computers or advanced technology.
Telecommuting is generally a part-time arrangement that is utilized two to three times a week by an employee. If you telecommuted from home two or three days a week, or tried to work an alternative workweek, you could save up to three weeks' worth of driving time a year.
Alternative work schedules
Flextime, compressed workweeks, and staggered work hours are all alternative work schedules because the individual’s hours vary from the regular 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. workday. Alternative work schedules benefit air quality by reducing vehicle trips and/or rush-hour congestion.
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