"Going" Green: 4 Exciting Transportation Initiatives in 2012

by ‐ Tags: green living, alternative energy

Green transportation is inching its way into our future. Public transit use has increased dramatically in the past few years, bike sharing systems have rolled into most major cities in the US (with many more to come!), and there is even talk of building a high-speed rail network throughout the nation. 

Transportation alone accounts for over a quarter of all the greenhouse gas emissions in the US, and road travel takes up 75% of those emissions. Any increase in public transit -and subsequent decrease in road travel- will benefit the environment and atmosphere. 

Below is a map of new transit initiatives and locations happening this year. You can check out the full detailed list, or continue reading on for what we are excited about in 2012.

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1. Green Line Extension in MA
The long-awaited GLX - Green Line Extension - project might finally be under way in Massachusetts. This would much better connect the city of Boston to its most populated neighboring towns, and would provide workers with an easier and faster commute. No Significant Environmental Impact was determined in the Commonwealth, which is a huge milestone in actually realizing this enormous project. Let's hope Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) and the MBTA keep up this progress.

2. Fuel Cell Bus Program
On April 11, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) gave $13.1 million to fund 11 projects involved with the Federal Transit Administration's (FTA) National Fuel Cell Bus Program. The program goal is to develop more efficient fuel cell technology and place hydrogen fuel cells into buses to reduce annual carbon emissions by 100 tons. 

This will eliminate the need for 9,000 gallons of fuel per year per vehicle, which translates into an annual savings of $37,000 per vehicle. Read the description of the projects here, and the press release can be found here. (Read more about the future of fuel cells in our blog posts: Part I / Part II).

These projects will be implemented in these states: CA, GA, MA, NC, NY, OH, and SC. 

3. Bike Shares
An alternative to public transit, bike share programs have become increasingly more popular in the US since they not only make commuting leisurely, but also have zero carbon emissions. So far, examples include the Boston Hubway, the Denver B-Cycle, the Miami Beach DECOBIKE, and the Minneapolis Nice Ride. This month, New York City will launch the largest bike share in the nation, its own Citi Bike program, which will have 600 stations and 10,000 bicycles! 

To find the nearest bicycle to you, explore the map of current and proposed bike sharing systems throughout the world below.

View The Bike-sharing World Map in a larger map

4. High-Speed Rail Network - Too Soon to Tell?
A study conducted by the International Union of Railways showed that high speed trains produce about fifteen times fewer carbon emissions than cars and jet airplanes. Implementing a high speed rail network in the US would reduce car and air traffic, while allowing our infrastructure to benefit from the technology that has been a wide success in other parts of the world.

Americans are pretty aware (or should be) that our national transportation system is far behind that of Europe and Asia, since high-speed trains and technology are not just lacking, they are practically non-existent. The Acela Express is the fastest train in the US, but it's maximum speed is 150 mph. With stops, the Acela's average speed from Boston to Washington is only 68 mph. The fastest train in the world--the Chinese CRH380A- can run at 302 mph. The second fastest train, the German TR-09, uses mag-lev technology to achieve a speed of 279 mph. 

High speed rail systems have many benefits, including less expensive and faster travel, reduced carbon emissions, less construction space, and convenience. Proposals to build a high speed rail network across the country have been in place for a couple of decades, but besides the Acela, none have been realized.

California is hoping to change this. Last month, the first phase of construction was approved for a high speed rail line, with speeds ranging between 150 to 220 mph, between Anaheim and San Francisco (via L.A. and San Jose). Construction is proposed to start this Fall. We are keeping our fingers crossed that the state actually goes through with it! 

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Here is the (rather hopeful) map of the US high speed rail system of the future. Will this be real (by 2050..?) We certainly hope so.