There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Friday, August 10, 2007

Painting Regional Transit green

As any student of art will tell you, blue and yellow, when combined, create green. Something similar happens when commuters combine with Sacramento Regional Transit's blue and yellow fleet.

Consider this green fact the next time you are driving down the street and see one of RT's blue and yellow buses: "If you leave your car at home one day a week, you prevent 55 pounds of pollution each year from being emitted into our air," according to the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District.

Or consider these green factoids from the Center for Transportation Excellence: If one in five Americans used public transportation daily, carbon monoxide pollution would decrease by more than all the emissions from the entire chemical manufacturing industry and all metal processing plants in the United States. Overall, public transportation generates 95 percent less carbon monoxide, 92 percent less in volatile organic compounds and about half as much carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide per passenger mile than passenger vehicles.

All of this green has a direct effect on public health. The Surface Transportation Policy Partnership reports:

"About one in twenty Americans, or nearly 15 million people, suffer from asthma. Asthma ranks among the most common chronic conditions in the United States, causing over 1.5 million emergency department visits, about 500,000 hospitalizations, and over 5,500 deaths per year. The prevalence of asthma has been increasing since the early 1980s for all age, sex, and racial groups.

"Over 113 million Americans live in cities with polluted air. It has long been known that poor air quality triggers asthma attacks, but recent research shows that poor air quality may actually be causing asthma. Findings released by the University of Southern California in February, 2002 indicated that healthy children with prolonged exposure to smog (ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and small particulates) developed new cases of asthma. The most active children, those playing team sports outside, were three times more likely to develop asthma than their counterparts in areas with cleaner air. Motor vehicles are responsible for one-third to one-half of the smog in most metro areas.

"Asthma is the number one reason children visit the emergency room and miss school."
Increased use of transit and other steps to reduce vehicle congestion can have an immediate, measurabe effect on public health. During the 1996, Olympics in Atlanta, the city made 24-hour transportation available, added buses, closed streets to cars and implemented flexible work schedules in a concerted effort to improve traffic conditions to accommodate the spectators. A health study conducted before, during and after the Olympics examined the effect on asthma attacks.
"The study showed the result of these efforts was a remarkable decline in ground-level ozone and other air pollutants, which reduced the number of emergency rooms visits for asthma during and shortly after the games," according to another factoid from the Center for Transportation Excellence.
Transit is not just for the poor and disabled. The green created by combining commuters with Sacramento Regional Transit's blue and yellow is good for everyone and deserves broad community support. It certainly deserves more support than the governor and state lawmakers showed in the state budget.

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