Monthly Archives: April 2008

Coastal Commuters marks a new way of thinking about traffic congestion

picture-2.pngTomorrow morning at 11 a.m., a press conference will be held on the frontage road at the corner of Abercorn Street and DeRenne Avenue to announce the launch of a revolutionary (at in local terms) approach to reducing traffic congestion. At its most basic essence, Coastal Commuters makes it easy for people to find someone who’s going their way. Or as the press release describes:

“Coastal Commuters encourages carpooling, mass transit, bicycling, and walking as methods in everyday transportation. A central feature in the program is a regional, online ride-matching system, which will be available for free to the general public, effective April 18, 2008. The promotion of alternative transportation among commuters to DeRenne Avenue was a recommendation in the Connecting Savannah Action Plan.”

The “central feature” mentioned above is especially important as it addresses the needs of people who live in areas that are not served by public transportation or who live too far from work to walk or bicycle. These folks can register, log on and find someone down the street or in the next subdivision over whose workplace is near their own. What’s more, the site will allow users to calculate how much they are saving in gas and vehicle miles and even pollution reduction.

But why is the Coastal Commuters revolutionary? Because it attacks the problem of traffic congestion from a completely different angle. Instead of taking usual approach of increasing capacity (building new roads or widening existing ones) it aims to reduce demand. Not only is it much more cost effective than adding capacity — something our financially troubled department of transportation recently revealed it can’t afford to do anyway — it avoids the undesirable side effects that come with widening roads, including:

  • Eviscerated neighborhoods
  • Destroyed tree canopies
  • Streets that are dangerous to cyclists and pedestrians
  • Additional automobile dependency and fuel consumption
  • Increased air pollution
  • Metastasizing sprawl
  • Public spaces that are civic liabilities instead of community assets

All this is on top of the reality that congestion relief promised by road widening is often only temporary, with the additional capacity serving to induce more traffic. Like the saying goes, trying to reduce congestion by widening roads is like fighting obesity by loosening your belt. It may address the symptoms in the short term, but it makes the underlying problem worse.

If for no other reason, Coastal Commuters is revolutionary because it can do what no other transportation project in this community can: It will put money back into the pockets of the people who use it. Show me a road widening project that can do that.

More information on Coastal Commuters is available here.

Friday is a good day not to drive

As mentioned previously, April 18 is “Dump the Pump: Leave Your Car at Home Day.” And the timing is nearly perfect. The weather will be nice and today a barrel of oil became more expensive than it has ever been before. It’s not too late to pledge not to drive. Carpooling qualifies, too. If you ride with someone else or give a friend a ride so they are able to leave the car at home, you’re doing your part.

Recycling as public policy and art

An editorial in today’s Savannah Morning News suggested a logical course of action for two large governmental agencies: They ought to work together.

When it comes to recycling, the more stuff removed from the waste stream, the better. That’s why it’s good news the Chatham County Commission is looking into bringing a recycling program to the unincorporated county. The county’s smaller municipalities, such as Garden City, Pooler and Port Wentworth, should also consider a recycling program.

The city of Savannah has already received entries from a request for proposals for a sorting and recovery facility. It is currently reviewing those proposals and working with the low bidders on site locations. The county could contract with the same recycler, which is expected to pay between $10 and $40 per ton of recyclables delivered, as well as the cost of running the recycling center.

Read more of “Recycling: Team up” here.

Meanwhile, at the city’s Gallery S.P.A.C.E., a recycling themed exhibition is slated to open next month. “Reincarnated: Art Showcasing Reduce, Reuse & Recycle,” features 12 local artists who use found art or recycled materials “as a conscious, creative way to cut down on waste.” The exhibition runs May 2-27 with a reception on opening night from 6-8 p.m.

Anne Robinson, outreach coordinator for the city’s Recycling Complex, organized the show. She described the genesis of the show this way:

“I recruited the artists by going to festivals and art galleries all around Savannah and seeking out pieces that were, whether intentionally or unintentionally, made with reused or recycled materials. Once I found a talented cadre of artists, we met monthly for six months to exchange ideas and materials. Reincarnated is the end result of these gatherings.”

Artists included in the exhibition are Maria Johns Brown Danielle DeMasi, Kristie Duncan, Liz Guri, Paschal Ford, Kelly Goode, Chris Harris, Lind Hollingsworth, David Kelley, Brian MacGregor, Jan Clayton Pagratis and Christopher Schell.

Gallery S.P.A.C.E. is located at 9 W. Henry St. Gallery hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. More information is available here.

jan-clayton-pagratis-004.jpg

Image: “Our Ocean” 2007, 5″x 7″ Oil Paint Chips and Rusty Metal on Canvas by Jan Clayton Pagratis.

Savannah Food Co-op Active, Almost

Some of us in Savannah have been poking around for a local/regional produce box program (that delivers) and/or a CSA ready to sprout. In the meantime, we are following the tenets of Square Foot Gardening, reading classics like One Acre and Security: How to Live Off the Earth Without Ruining It or The New Self-Sufficient Gardener, and doing what we can at home. Some of us have taken over a plot at a county park West of the city, and others are harvesting produce in exchange for free labor at friends’ places.

Clearly what we’ve needed is a community organizer. Michelle Solomon-Ceo, a fairly new resident of Savannah, has recently formed the Savannah Food Co-op, a group of parents/students/people young and old who are interested in having regular access to local (or at least regional), sustainable, healthy, organic produce at affordable prices—for starters.

The co-op is also organizing a monthly buying group to purchase natural pharmacy items and is continuing research of opportunities to offer meats, eggs and dairy products from our region.

To participate, you can sign up for the Yahoo Users Group called “Savannah Co-op (but with no hyphen).” In order to receive its first shipment, the group must have 25 orders. At this time, there are plenty of orders ready to go but there a couple of major elements still missing.

The co-op needs a location for truck delivery and member pickup of the produce. Can anyone suggest a community organization facility, church, a workplace, that could offer space a couple of times a month for this purpose? The co-op also needs volunteers.
Download a .pdf of group’s information sheet here.

Sustainable transportation in Savannah: Are the planets (or at least the logos) aligning?

picture-3.png

The coming week will bring plenty of sustainable transportation news and events. While there are connections between the groups and individuals behind these developments,  a pleasing element of serendipity can be found in the fact that they are all happening within the next seven days.

First, the Savannah Bicycle Campaign will mark its official launch with a press conference on Monday, April 14 at 11 a.m. in Johnson Square in Downtown Savannah. All Savannah cyclists are invited to attend and show their support for the SBC mission. The group was organized to work through the political, public policy, and citizen advocacy processes to develop more and better bicycle facilities in Savannah—improved bike lanes, racks, and signage—and to develop a public campaign to educate bicyclists and drivers about safe practices on and off the roadways. More information is available on the Savannah Bicycle Campaign Web site.

The Chatham Urban Transportation Study will hold a press conference of its own on Friday, April 18 at 11 a.m. on the frontage road at the corner of DeRenne Avenue and Abercorn Street. CUTS will announce the launch of the Coastal Commuters program. It’s designed to encourage “carpooling, mass transit, bicycling, and walking as methods in everyday transportation. A central feature in the program is a regional, online ride-matching system, which will be available for free to the general public, effective April 18.” Chatham County Commission Chairman Pete Liakakis will speak at the press conference.

Friday is an appropriate day for such an event, as it happens to be Dump the Pump: Leave Your Car at Home Day. Spearheaded by the Savannah Development and Renewal Authority, the program is designed to encourage alternative commutes including mass transit use, carpooling, bicycling, walking and even skateboarding. The SDRA’s partners are Chatham Area Transit, Pedestrian Advocates of the Coastal Empire, the Savannah Bicycle Campaign, and the City of Savannah. Dump the Pump invites citizen to pledge to leave their cars at home on April 18 by publicly stating their intentions here.

On Saturday, April 19, Liakakis will be back in the public eye, this time riding a bicycle along side Savannah Mayor Otis Johnson as the two leaders head up the Savannah Wheelie Earth Day Ride. The Wheelie departs from Forsyth Park at 3 p.m., at the conclusion of Earth Day Savannah. Sponsored by the Savannah Bicycle Campaign and the Coastal Georgia Greenway, the ride will be followed by the Post Wheelie Dealie at Blowin’ Smoke BBQ.