News & Press

Green Carpooling & Commuting Tips for the BART Strike

August 14th, 2009 By: Byron Taylor

With the BART STRIKE looming this coming work week, we thought we’d share some of our tips on carpooling and green travel with you once again. Even if you drive, remember that our highways and roads will be jam packed with traffic. Consider the greener option of carpooling: if enough of us do it, it’ll save everyone valuable time. Remember too that AC Transit and the SFMTA will still be in operation – just leave for work at least an hour early, and bring your patience with you, as these services are likely to be overcrowded.

Update: while the strike has been averted, these are still fantastic tips to travel green every day. Perhaps some of our readers can learn from the plans they made for a possible strike.

Commuting to Work

For the Conservative Conservationist

One of the simplest and most common ways to go green is carpooling. Not only does it limit harmful emissions by reducing the number of vehicles on the road, but it makes you feel good about reducing your carbon footprint. Other advantages to carpooling include shortened commute time and the financial benefit of sharing toll charges that can top six bucks, depending on the route you travel.

Sounds awesome right? But what if you find yourself unable to fill the seats necessary to avoid getting a $381.00 ticket from the Highway Patrol for illegal use of the High Occupancy Vehicle Lane? Or say you decide to take on the role of rider but cannot stomach the notion, or even worse, the fragrance of mass transit? Well, you need look no further than the line forming on your local street corner. Causal Car Pooling, or “Slugging” is the practice of waiting to be picked up by a random driver looking to reach the HOV passenger minimum, which is usually 3 or more people. To become a Slugger all you need to do is show up at a designated pick up spot in your city and wait to be picked up. That’s it. And once you obtain a ride, simply follow these basic Slugging etiquette tips and you’re on your way to being green:

Finer Point:

“Slugging” originated in the 1970′s with city bus drivers who had to determine if prospective riders standing at the bus stop were “real” passengers waiting for the bus, or fake “slugs” waiting to be picked up by a car pooler looking to fill up his vehicle. More useful travel tips and information on Slugging can be found at slug-lines.com.

For the Green Giant

Should you choose to jump into being green with both feet first, then mass transit is a step in the right direction. Leaving your your car at home for just one day will have a positive environmental impact by reducing the harmful carbon emissions responsible for the Greenhouse Effect. Thankfully the Bay Area has a myriad of options for public transportation including the following:

AC Transit provides service originating in the East Bay and services San Francisco, San Mateo and Palo Alto. AC Transit currently operates 3 hydrogen powered buses on their 50 and 57 lines, and has plans plans to purchase 10 hybrid-diesel buses in the future. For your convenience AC Transit also offers wireless internet on some buses that serve Transbay lines.

SF MUNI services the city and county of San Francisco. Its network is a combination of bus, trolley, Muni Metro and historic cable car lines. Many buses in their 1000 vehicle fleet are diesel-powered, with a little less than 1/3 that are zero-emission and powered by overhead electrical wires. Underground Muni Metro rail systems typically share the same station as BART.

Further information on these and other transit options servicing the Peninsula such as Caltrain, Golden Gate Transit, and SamTrans can be found here at 511.org.

Tips for traveling the rails? Trains typically run every 5 to 15 minutes during commuting hours, so it’s okay if you miss one. You don’t want to be the guy who holds everyone up because your JanSport backpack got caught while bursting through closing doors.

Finer Point:

The IRS now allows up to 120.00 per month in pre-tax transit benefits which can be applied toward the purchase of qualified transportation expenses. Check with your employer to get the process started.

For the Tree Hugger

If you feel like car pooling isn’t green enough or that using public transportation is child’s play, then you may want to consider mankind’s most basic form of transportation: walking. Walking is very simple. It requires no fossil fuel consumption, no expensive maintenance, and has health benefits to boot. Some would say walking is the most perfect form of green transportation that you can find, and it’s also good for you. Unless of course you accidentally walk through a bad neighborhood and then we would highly recommend you break into a slow jog or maybe even consider running. You can avoid this pedestrian hazard by using websites like mapmywalk.com to plan the optimal route if you are unfamiliar with the area. Basic membership is free, but if you want to be able to print your mapped route then you will need to upgrade to a premium account which is only five bucks a month.

Not a walker? Then you may want to look into bike commuting. It also has obvious health benefits and under the Bicycle Commuter Act, a $20.00 per month tax credit is available for employees who bike to work. There is a wealth of information on bike commuting at bikecommuters.com. You can also check back here at a later date for more information on the subject.

Flipside of the coin:

Believe it or not some environmental experts believe the physical act of walking is actually more harmful to the environment than driving a car. For example, a person who walks 3 miles to a shopping center will lose more calories than a person who drives the same distance. The extra food needed to replace those lost calories, approximately 100 per mile, will most likely have been produced using an industrial process that is more harmful to the environment than the CO2 emissions coming from a 3 mile trip in a vehicle. Of course the entire theory is thrown out the window if the driver is going to the mall for a hoagie. You can form your own opinion by reading this article in its entirety.

Consider yourself officially enlisted in the ongoing fight to save our planet. You now have the knowledge to be eco-friendly, or at the very least, fortify your current efforts. These easy commuting tips will undoubtedly help you arrive to work feeling greener!

Arriving on time may be a different story.