Monthly Archives: October 2008

No, really, I don’t need a ride. But thanks for asking.

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People, who use bicycles for the kinds of trips that most folks make by car, are familiar with the question:

“Do you need a lift?”

Well-intentioned offers of vehicular assistance can be triggered by any number of circumstances, which cause people to wonder if you really want to go by bike. Inclement weather, nightfall, heavy or cumbersome loads, Mondays — any of these can be viewed as barriers to cycling. Transit riders are also popular targets for friendly folks who like to offer rides. I learned not to wait at the bus stop right out in front of my office. Last time I did that, I was barraged by ride offers from my coworkers. Walking to a stop a block or so away allowed me to wait  for the bus in peace.

The truth is, as a nation, we have vastly overestimated the amount of travel that must be done by car.

When the weather is miserable, as it was on Friday, I’m often tempted to drive. But then I think about what it must have been like for Gen. James Oglethorpe and the colonists who founded Savannah in 1733. They didn’t have the luxury of jumping in their cars when the skies opened up. They braved the rain on their bicycles and so can I!

All kidding aside, with the proper bike you can do all kinds of things. This afternoon I transported a 6-foot Type III wooden ladder about two and a half miles, using my Xtracycle. This, frankly, would have been more difficult in some of the cars I’ve owned.

Here come the hybrids: CAT provides a sneak peek at new bus

gillig.jpgNear the end of today’s Chatham Urban Transit Study Policy Committee meeting, Chatham Area Transit Interim Executive Director Joe Murray Rivers announced he had something to show the group. Near the corner of State and Drayton streets waited a Gillig Hyrbrid low floor transit bus. Rivers said CAT has ordered 11 hybrid buses, which will be carrying passengers in Savannah in 12-18 months. Eric Curl wrote about the buses in the Savannah Morning News earlier this year.

According to promotional literature, the buses are powered by “GM Allison Hybrid Ep Systems” that deliver improved fuel economy:

“The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) conducted chassis dynamometer tests using two 60′ buses — one with the GM Allison Hybrid Ep System and one with a conventional powertrain. The testing showed a 75 percent improvement in fuel economy during a stop-and-go Manhattan duty cycle. Actual in-service fuel economy improvements range from 20-54 percent compared to conventional buses.”

The literature also suggests the buses produce fewer emissions:

“…overall emissions are significantly reduced during operation compared to conventional combustion engines. Oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions are reduced up to 50 percent even with the latest 2.5 gram/hp-hr engines. The system also provides significant emission reduction when compared to alternative propulsion systems.”

Still not impressed? Maybe this will be music to your ears:

“The GM Allison Hybrid Ep System helps reduce noise pollution compared to conventional buses. At 79 db @ 10 meters, buses equipped with the system approach the sound level of passenger cars.”

Still, buses of any kind can be a tough sell locally. There remains, in some quarters, the idea that transit funding is an unnecessary and wasteful subsidy. This viewpoint, of course, conveniently ignores the much, much larger government subsidy devoted to private automobiles.

In his announcement about the bus preview, Rivers took the opportunity to point out that CAT ridership is up 10 percent compared with the same period last year. Chatham County Commission Chariman Pete Liakakis followed this up with a suggestion that the bad press CAT has received lately does not tell the entire story. CAT is on the way up, he said.

Savannahians will be able to take a ride on the bus on Oct. 23 and 24, according to a CAT press release.

On Thursday, the pilot hybrid bus will be on the 14 Abercorn route leaving Broughton at Montgomery at 10 a.m. heading outbound to the malls. This bus will then depart at 11 a.m. from Savannah Mall and return downtown at noon.  The bus will then run the 3A Augusta Avenue route leaving Broughton at Montgomery at 12:30 p.m. and travel its regular route to Highway 21 and  Brampton. It will leave there at 1 p.m. and return downtown at 1:30 p.m. On Friday, the bus will travel on the 27 Waters route to Oglethorpe Mall leaving Broughton at Montgomery at 9 a.m., arriving at the mall at 9:45 a.m. It will then leave Oglethorpe Mall at 9:55 a.m. and return downtown at 10:40 a.m.

With dark clouds gathering, now’s the time to rethink our transportation priorities

picture-14.pngYesterday I heard a local elected official describe bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and transit improvements as “fluff” that would be impossible to fund in an increasingly difficult economic environment. He suggested it would be a struggle just to keep the grass mowed in the medians. That was important, he said, because motorists need clear lines of sight. Otherwise they might crash into each other.

In tough times, he seemed to be saying, we must concentrate on the important things. Like cars. Public transit and infrastructure for non-motorized vehicles? Not so much.

Yet there are those who say funding projects that get people out of their cars and into more sustainable modes of transportation is exactly what we should be doing when the financial chips are down. Transportation for America’s “Build for America” campaign suggests a five pronged approach to moving people and improving the economy:

  • Build rail and transit networks that are competitive with those in China and Europe, reducing oil dependence and connecting metro regions.
  • Invest in “the cleanest forms of transportation — modern public transit, walking and biking.”
  • Adopt a “fix-it-first” policy to repair crumbling roads and bridges rather than building new ones.
  • Stop wasteful spending and re-evaluate projects that have already been approved.
  • Save Americans money” by providing them with cost-efficient, sustainable transportation options where they live and work.

Viewed through this lens, transit, pedestrian and bicycle improvements should be moving to the top of the priority list, not the bottom.

County commission candidates to discuss future of the county at Oct. 14 forum

image001.gifIn anticipation of the upcoming Chatham County Commission election, the Georgia Conservancy and Savannah Bicycle Campaign will host a candidate forum on Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2008 in at 7:30 p.m. at the Coastal Georgia Center on Fahm Street.

Candidates will answer questions about their positions on a variety of issues related to land use, transportation, land conservation and growth. The questions have been pre-written and will not be made available to candidates prior to arrival. However, links to information and educational materials on all the issues covered by the questions have been sent to the candidates in advance of the evening’s forum. Additionally, any time remaining at the end of the scripted questioning will be made available for questions from the audience.

Panelists include Jim Morekis, Editor-in-Chief of Connect Savannah, Dionne Hoskins, Chair of the Chatham County Resource Protection Commission and Associate Graduate Professor at Savannah State University, and Orlando Montoya, Savannah-based news producer with Georgia Public Broadcasting.

All candidates are invited and will have reserved seating on stage, including those in uncontested races.  Patty McIntosh of the Georgia Conservancy stated, “We recognize the evening’s dialogue as vital to the democratic process and to countywide constituents, and hope that all candidates will choose to participate in this important event regardless of whether their seats are being challenged.”

Districts 1, 4, 6 and Commission Chair face contested races. All opposing candidates will participate in the forum.  This event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Summer Teal Simpson at (912) 447-5910.

The Georgia Conservancy is a statewide, non-profit organization that develops solutions to protect Georgia’s environment through collaboration, education and advocacy. Since establishing a coastal office in Savannah in 1972, the Georgia Conservancy has been engaged in water, land and growth management issues locally and throughout the coastal region.

The Savannah Bicycle Campaign aims to promote bicycling in the community and to create, strengthen and unite local bicycle groups, riders, and enthusiasts to improve conditions for cyclists in Savannah.

Tybee Island City Council Strikes Again

At a time when we are witnessing what happens when greed and short-sightedness mix with lack of regulation and oversight, the Tybee Island City Council voted (again, last night) 4-2 to repeal the city’s shoreline protection ordinance.  Since its passage in 1999, the city’s ordinance has provided a level of protection (from the negative impacts of ever encroaching real estate development) above and beyond what the state requires.  The repeal not only strips away this additional layer of protection, but also hands jurisdiction back to the state.

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The four council members above voted for the repeal.
I have four questions for them . . .

1) Why would you vote against additional protection for the city’s most valuable economic and environmental resource?
2) Why would you cede local control to a state agency (GA DNR)? -especially one well-known to be underfunded and understaffed!
3) Isn’t this vote at odds with the $11 million beach renourishment program getting underway this week?
4) What do ya’ll have against North Beach anyway?* -there’s barely a beach left there to protect!

*Tybee’s city charter still protects the dunes and  seawall that run  from the curve on Campbell to South Beach (but don’t hold your breath, this council is on a roll).

Read more about it here, here and here

And remember, you don’t have to be a Tybee voter to write these folks and urge them to change their minds . . .
Wanda Doyle tybeewanda@bellsouth.net
Barry Brown babhbinc@bellsouth.net
Eddie Crone mecrone@bellsouth.net
Charlie R. Brewer charlierbrewer@bellsouth.net