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CommuteSmarter, not harder

08.23.2007 by André Natta · → 1 Comment

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By Sean Saffle

Eighty-five percent of Birmingham commuters drive alone, and the average metro commuter spends 27 hours a year trapped in traffic. Think of all the things you could do with an extra 27 hours!

You might be thinking, “I have no choice. I have to get to work.” Fortunately, there are other options out there that you might not even know exist. For those of you that need a bit more convincing, let’s look at some other reasons you might want to consider a new commute.

Collectively, Birmingham congestion costs commuters $165 million over the course of a year. Gas prices have been fluctuating, but the trend is upwards. That means that the amount of wasted money is going to keep going up over time. When gas prices spike, folks are forced to adjust their budgets to cover the extra expense. Small adjustments over time equal big dollars down the road, but there is a place to turn to lower commuting expenses.

CommuteSmart Birmingham is a program of the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham. Its mission is to reduce traffic and improve air quality by encouraging the use of commute alternatives such as carpooling, vanpooling, transit, walking or biking. And if you’re already thinking that biking is impossible or transit doesn’t run by your part of town, stay with me.

More likely than not, you have a friend, relative or co-worker who lives near you and travels to the same part of town for work. If you’re not sure, CommuteSmart has a database of commuters looking to find someone like you. Sharing the ride with someone else will save you money, save wear and tear on your car and let you get to work feeling a little less stressed and a little more ready to start the day.

CommuteSmart currently works with more than 40 partners in the metro area, so you might be one step ahead of the game if your employer is one of them. Ask your employer if they work with CommuteSmart, and if they don’t, come to us directly. We also work with individual commuters.

If you got this far and still think that an alternative commute is out the question, there are a few things that you can do that will help save money and improve our air quality.

1. Combine errands – Take that handful of small trips and create one big trip.

2. Change your light bulbs -Replace regular light bulbs with energy-efficient, compact fluorescent bulbs.

3. Keep your car in shape – Get regular tune-ups, keep the tires properly inflated and change the air filter for better gas mileage.

4. Buy green – Energy Star® appliances use less energy and save money.

5. Put some muscle into it – Switch the gas-powered mower for a push model or replace the leaf blower with a rake.

6. Unplug chargers – Even when not in use, chargers for cell phones, computers, PDAs, etc. draw small amounts of electricity.

7. Don’t idle – Walk inside the restaurant instead of using the drive-thru or turn off your car while you wait to pick up the kids at school.

8. Take a bike ride or walk – Replace short car trips with trips by foot or two wheels to keep pollutants out of the air.

9. Lose the toxins – The chemicals in household cleaning products contribute to air pollution. Try buying a natural cleanser next time – or make your own with vinegar, lemon juice and baking soda.

10. Skip the drive entirely – Teleworking one or two days a week can save hundreds of dollars. Chances are you’ll be more productive too.

Take the first step to a better commute and improved air quality. Go to Together, we can make Birmingham a better place to live, work and play.

Sean Saffle is the Project Manager of CommuteSmart Birmingham. He can be reached at or 1-87-RIDEMATCH.

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Filed under: Alabama · Birmingham · Commentary · regional



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