Archive for February, 2017

The Bus as Sanctuary: Riding Transit in the Winter

Originally published as monthly Treading Lightly column in the Maine Sunday Telegram’s Source section.

It’s during the cold, dark and mucky months that I most actively ride the bus in and around Greater Portland. My reasons range – from the practical to the social to the environmental.

When the weather is bad, the bus becomes sanctuary. It’s warm inside, and the driver welcomes me with a hello as I settle into my seat to let someone else drive me where I need to go. I’m harbored, at least temporarily, from the slush and ice.

Riding the bus in Maine’s winter lets me put off digging my car out and scraping off ice until a more convenient time. When I reach my destination, I don’t have to find parking in yet another snowbank; I don’t even have to think about parking. As an inveterate walker and biker, when I ride the bus, I can let go of worry that drivers won’t see me, especially at a time of year when dawn comes so late and dusk so early.

I don’t mind if the bus is crowded. Sometimes I even like it. On any given day all year long, there’s a camaraderie on the bus, even if I’m simply reading a book or eavesdropping on conversations around me. That sense of community seems heightened in the colder months, perhaps tinged by the adversity outside.

One arctic Saturday, I caught the bus home from outer Brighton Avenue. It was packed with people, seemingly workers and shoppers. An older woman waved me toward an empty seat, barely visible between her and another passenger. “Honey, there’s a spot here!” she called. I gratefully nestled between them, feeling comforted by their puffy winter coats on either side of me.

These days, thanks to a new technology local buses are using, I know when sanctuary will arrive down to the minute (or down to three minutes, anyhow). Since last June, Metro and South Portland riders have been able to access the Southern Maine Transit Tracker, which uses GPS to provide information on where the bus actually is. Often, I can stay tucked inside, warm and comfortable, and hustle out into the cold just a few minutes before the bus comes.

For practical purposes, catching the bus during the winter also means I save on gas money. Of course, I spend less on gas whenever I take the bus instead of driving. But the savings are even higher at frosty temperatures, when the fuel economy of cars drops for a host of reasons: engine oil thickness, cold and wet pavement drag, higher air density.

Hopping on the bus also lets me minimize the number of times I drive my car at its dirtiest – and I’m not talking about the salt and grime streaking its exterior come winter. Colder months are when internal combustion engines take the longest to get out of “open loop” emissions. During open loop, the exhaust system’s catalytic converter isn’t hot enough to do its job to break up carbon monoxide, unburned hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen into their separate, more innocuous molecules. The converter needs to be between 400 and 600 degrees F to start working and close the loop. It then operates normally at 1200 to 1600 degrees. Until it reaches these temperatures, the exhaust system dumps our engine’s output straight into our lovely Maine air. (If you drive an electric vehicle, you needn’t worry about this. But in Maine, less than 1 percent of vehicles are electric or plug-in hybrids.)

In the winter, it takes my car, and yours, a while to warm up and produce toasty heat. It’s tempting to let it idle and warm up until we’re ready to go. We need to resist that temptation! It’s wasteful for a car to idle for more than a minute, getting a big fat 0 miles to the gallon. On top of that, it’s bad for our cars. Remember – “warm it up before you drive it” is outdated advice from the carburetor era. Driving the car down the road gets it up to the proper temperature much faster and is better for all those moving engine parts. And fuel injection – which replaced the carburetor beginning in the early 1980s – senses and accounts for all variations in outside temperature.

Actually, I don’t have to resist temptation. Instead, I’ll ride the bus and be happy for the refuge. If you live near public transit and don’t use it, I encourage you to give it a try. I hope to see you on board!

February 28, 2017 at 8:27 am Leave a comment

April 26 – Co-Sponsoring FHWA Workshop for Greater Portland on Contemporary Approaches to TDM Planning

Register Here Now

We’re excited to offer a great opportunity for local municipalities and practitioners to learn more about contemporary Transportation Demand Management (TDM) planning and ways to increase the use of TDM measures in the Greater Portland region.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will be delivering this one day, no-cost workshop on April 26 at the Greater Portland Council of Governments (GPCOG)/Portland Area Comprehensive System (PACTS), 970 Baxter Boulevard, Suite 201, in Portland. Please save the date on your calendar and Register Here Now.

Those encouraged to attend are:

  • transportation planners
  • traffic management professionals
  • transit operations staff
  • transportation demand management (TDM) professionals
  • others interested in vehicle trip reduction planning

Key Workshop Takeaways – participants will:

  1. Identify opportunities to broaden the scope of demand management beyond traditional alternative commute mode programs and to address emerging issues, such as shared mobility.
  2. Identify how to build institutional capability to support effective demand management.
  3. Develop an action plan for improving integration of demand management into existing and future planning activities.

Agenda Overview
Morning:

  • Introduction to the Workshop
  • Overview about Demand Management/Executive Summary
  • TDM and Planning Integration in the Region: Strengths, Weaknesses, and Opportunities
  • Emerging Approaches, Strategies, and New Directions for Demand Management: Shared Mobility and Integrating TDM and Traffic Operations

Lunch in the Neighborhood – purchase your own tasty take-out from nearby eateries and continue the conversation
 
Afternoon:

  • TDM and Planning Assessment Exercise
  • Discussion: Opportunities to Integrate Additional Demand Management into the Planning Efforts in the Region
  • Action Plan Development
  • Wrap-Up

You can see more about the workshop in this FHWA flier. The workshop is co-sponsored by GPCOG, PACTS, the Maine Division of the Federal Highway Administration, and Cushman Transportation Consulting, LLC.

Looking forward to it and hope you can join us!

February 1, 2017 at 1:09 pm Leave a comment


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