Save Austin and the Environment, One Commute at a Time

Earth Day, on April 22nd, is as good a time as any to take even small steps in reducing your “carbon footprint.”  Here’s why you might want to focus the effort on your commute.

Americans burn 2.9 billion gallons of gasoline each year just while sitting in congestion. Austin motorists lose an average of 41 hours of precious time idling in traffic each year, costing $137 per person per month in lost productivity and out-of-pocket gas expense.

All that traffic isn’t good for the planet, either. Approximately one-third of all the greenhouse gasses produced in the country comes from transportation-related emissions; motor vehicles emit 20 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) per gallon of gas burned, for a national average of 5.5 tons per year, per motorist. Screen shot 2015-04-15 at 12.21.50 PM

There is good news, though. Though our carbon footprints are “Sasquatch” sized now, we can easily shrink them down and save some money.

For those who drive 

Within the U.S., approximately 77% of us drive alone to work. All that driving alone means 34% of all the energy we use is burned getting around. Luckily, there are ways to improve your mpg if you’re one of those who must drive: avoiding high speeds and sudden starts and stops, turning down your air conditioning, and removing luggage or bike racks from the top of your car can all improve your gas mileage.

Sharing the ride pays double dividends 

10% of the working population carpools, a simple strategy that dramatically cuts down on emissions. A two-person carpool immediately slashes the impact on the earth by 50%.

Let Carma help you find a carpool buddy! Advantages to carpooling include:

  • Travelfaster and cheaper: using Carma, carpoolers can take advantage of toll discounts.
  • Sharing of costs can mean a savings of up to $3,000 per year. Easy to believe, since the AAA figures the average American spends 52.2 cents per mile, or $7,823 per year, to operate their motor vehicle.
  • More free time during the commute. The passenger can read, rest, or eat breakfast.
  • Less stress, lower blood pressure, and better mental acuity, as say studies at the University of California, Irvine.
  • With a passenger, a driver’s risk of death decreases by 7.5%.

Take advantage of technology to beat traffic 

Traffic jams are especially bad sources of air pollution. At 15 miles per hour, a car puts out three times more hydrocarbons than it does at 50 mph. Luckily, technology can give you advance notice about traffic jams so you can avoid them.

There are many free apps to help you navigate around traffic like Google MapsMetropia, or Waze and many GPS devices incorporate real-time accident data by subscription.

Hop on the bus 

Few modes of transportation beat transit when it comes to reducing greenhouse gases. Buses are the most efficient, consuming only 1.5% of the energy used to transport us to work.

Commuting by bus could be for you, if you:

  • Live within 15 miles of work and within 15 minutes (on foot) of a bus stop.
  • Work within 15 minutes of a bus stop.
  • Have to make no more than one transfer.

Let RideScoutCapital Metro, or Dadnab help you find the bus and tell you when to catch it. RideScout and Capital Metro even allow you pay for the ride from a mobile phone.

Or take the train 

Just like the bus, trains use up only 1.5% of the total transportation energy. And the MetroRail has Wi-Fi on board, which means you can work during your commute.

Consider commuting by train for:

  • Distances greater than 15 miles
  • If you live in the suburbs, but work downtown.
  • Have easy access to a train station (less than 15 minutes) and easy access to work (less than 15 minutes).
  • You have difficult or expensive parking at work.

Here’s how using buses and trains to commute helps the environment, and helps you:

  • In the U.S., buses and trains combined put out 1/10 the CO2 that cars and trucks produce.
  • Transit expenses are tax free up to $130 month. That’s $1560 per year that never shows up on your W-2 form.
  • Using transit to get to work is not wasted time. Riders can read a book, concentrate on work, eat breakfast or dinner and even catch a quick nap.

People power

You may be surprised to learn that just over 2% of U.S. workers walk to work, more than the number who take a motorcycle or bicycle.

  • If you live a mile or less from work walking is probably the most efficient commute option or with 2-5 miles maybe it’s bicycling.
  • Walking and biking to work couldn’t be greener; you use no petrochemicals, and bicycling just one day per week reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 24 pounds.
  • And, it’s good for your health.


Approximately 3.6% of American telecommute, which saves a lot of gas, and also saves a lot of time. Telecommuting just one day per week reduces your carbon footprint by 20%!

Obviously, we have many options to keep Austin from strangling in traffic and the environment. If you work downtown and need assistance, Movability has experts who can help with even a brief “commute chat.” For this Earth Day, how about trying to transform your trip or take a big step…pledge to go carless for one month. It will save you time, money, frustrations, and help ensure a cleaner earth for ourselves and our children.


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