CommuteSmart

News


BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- April is Earth Month, and UAB is getting into the environmental swing with several events.

There is an Arbor Day celebration in progress on campus today until 1 p.m., according to the UAB Reporter. The event includes educational demonstrations, a tree-planting ceremony and other activities. One of the sponsoring groups is the UAB student environmental group, Green Initiative.

The remaining events this month are as follows:

Wednesday, April 9: UAB Earth Month Festival, to be held on the Campus Green from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. There will be food, live music, educational booths and vendors selling produce and green products.

There will be about 30 vendors, including the Alabama Environmental Council, Birmingham Public Library, Black Warrior Riverkeeper, Commute Smart, Green Garage, Redemptive Cycles and REV Birmingham, according to the UAB Sustainability web site.

Thursday, April 10: Southern Exposure Film Series, Spencer Honors House, 7 p.m. There will be a screening of short films designed to raise awareness about environmental issues in Alabama.

The films to be screened are "Overburdened: Undermined," "Beltline Blues," "Rain's Gonna Come," and "Forever Wild," according to the UAB Sustainability site.

Friday, April 11: Household hazardous waste collection, UAB Recycling Center, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. UAB faculty, staff and students can bring household items such as paint and solvents to be disposed properly.

Electronic waste will also be accepted, courtesy of Advanced Technology Recycling.

For more information about these events, go to www.uab.edu/sustainability.

For more news from Birmingham, go to www.al.com/birmingham.

via al.com


BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Downtown's flat topography, wide streets and high concentration of people and jobs are good ingredients for a bike sharing program, a study concluded.

Now that a report has deemed such a program feasible, the next steps involve looking at whether there are resources to financially support and sustain such a program said Lindsey West, deputy director of the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham.

More than 40 U.S. cities have begun bike sharing programs. The concept is have a network of stations where riders can rent bicycles for a period of time, ride to appointments or other destinations and return them to nearby stations.

The goal, planning commission officials have said, is to reduce congestion by giving commuters another option for getting around downtown.

The planning commission contracted with Toole Design Group to explore bringing a program to Birmingham. During a public meeting in November, the consultants said the city has a "good foundation" for a program.

The report is available at BirminghamBikeShare.com.

Toole Design Group's study found that downtown Birmingham can support at network of 30 to 40 stations and a total of 300 to 400 bikes, with the program possibly serving nearby Lakeview district, the St. Vincent's Hospital area and neighborhoods such as Avondale, Forest Park and Highland Park.

The study also identified some challenges to starting a program. The city's bike infrastructure -- system of bike lanes -- "while continually growing, is still not completely developed," the report states.

"Lack of a strong existing network of bicycle friendly facilities is not necessarily a deterrent to bikeshare," the report also states. "Almost every city that has implemented a system has built out their bicycle infrastructure parallel to building a bikeshare system."

The planning commission now will develop an implementation plan. A major part of studying implementation is seeing if financial support exists.

West said conversations have begun with potential stakeholders including the City of Birmingham, city council, the mayor's office and non-profit and community foundations.

"It's gotta be a priority for all of us," West said. "This is something we don't just want to put out for Birmingham, Birmingham has got to want it."

If done, this would be the first area-wide bike share. Several businesses are participating in internal bike shares including Alabama Power and businesses in the Lakeview district.

via al.com

Do you CommuteSmart?

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Parked in the far lot at the Alabaster Lowe's, sits a large white van with CommuteSmart written on the side. But what is it doing there? And what exactly is CommuteSmart? According to Brian Atkinson, business outreach manager for CommuteSmart, CommuteSmart is a solution to the problem of wasting away while stuck in traffic. "The average commuter from Alabaster to downtown Birmingham drives about forty-five miles round-trip, every day," shared Atkinson. From figures provided by Atkinson, the average savings, for a commuter who finds a way to share a ride, is about $340 per month - or more than $4,000 per year.

But it is not just about money. "Different people use the program for different reasons," explained Atkinson. "Many of our users join for the cash and gift cards program. Others simply realize the substantial amount of money they save by carpooling, vanpooling, bicycling, and teleworking. Still others join just to have someone to pass the time with
while they travel back and forth to work. It helps reduce stress," he shared.

Many people share a ride without joining the CommuteSmart program, but if they were to join, there would be some excellent incentives to be gained. "For each day a commuter chooses an alternative commute option, and logs that commute on our website, they receive $1 per day, up to $70, during the first ninety days. After the initial period, they can continue to log their alternative commutes to receive $25 gift cards for gas, groceries, and other items," shared Atkinson. The benefits do not end with just financial gain. "Logging also makes the commuter eligible for up to five emergency rides home per year, in which CommuteSmart will take the commuter back to their starting point at no cost to them for things such as illness, a sick child, or unscheduled overtime," he stated.

CommuteSmart was officially established at the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham, in 1999, with the mission to improve air quality and reduce traffic congestion. "To meet these goals," shared Atkinson, "the program has evolved to include management of vanpools, rideshare matching for carpools, administering an emergency ride home program, supporting public transit, bicycle and walking commuters, assist businesses in developing transportation demand management plans, and recently studying the feasibility of a bikeshare program (stay tuned for results on bikeshare)."
The need for this program is in the air, according to Atkinson. "Our area consistently ranks among the worst in terms of air pollution," he explained. This pollution is a leading source of respiratory harm, increased cardiovascular issues, and premature death. And the biggest cause of all the pollution? Cars. And while health is a big driving force, economics play a big part as well. "According to an annual study from Texas A&M," shared Atkinson, "traffic congestion has cost our area over $2.2 billion in the past five years in lost time and excess fuel costs alone. By encouraging better commuter choices, CommuteSmart helps to reduce vehicle miles travelled, which in turn improves air quality, reduces traffic congestion, and promotes economic efficiency."

So how is Alabaster doing sharing rides? According to Atkinson's numbers, fairly well. "Of the roughly 15,600 Alabaster commuters, slightly more than one in ten get to work by car or vanpool," he gladly shared. And while many citizens of Alabaster rideshare, many more do not. "The bad news is that the percentage of commuters who drive alone in their vehicle to workplaces from Alabaster is near the bottom third of the forty-eight municipalities tracked in the CommuteSmart program area," shared Atkinson. Roughly 85.6% of all Alabaster commuters drive alone, which is higher than Shelby County's 84.5% and Alabama's 84.3% averages. To register for the service visit www.CommuteSmart.org or call 205-264-8455.

via Alabaster Connection


Residents of the greater Birmingham area continue to lead the state in terms of time spent driving to work.

Click the chart for the average commute times.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for avgtimeinmins.jpg
















The U.S. Census breaks answers up into five minute segments. In Birmingham, the most popular answer was: It takes me between 30-34 minutes to get to work.

Huntsville, Mobile and Montgomery all saw the most common response in the 20-24 minute range.

Birmingham also leads for the very longest commutes.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for perencetageunder45mins.jpg
















On the other hand, here's a look at the percentage of people in each of the state's largest metro areas who say they can reach work in under 15 minutes.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for under15mins.jpg
















via al.com


BIRMINGHAM, Alabama - Birmingham Mayor William Bell said the city's new $30 million, three-block intermodal station should start construction within the next couple of months, bringing together Amtrak, Greyhound, the BJCTA and automotive transportation together in one place.

Bell said funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation and a commitment with the Birmingham-Jefferson Country Transit Authority are both in place, paving the way for the project to move forward.

"This project is an example of the city's investment in downtown," Bell said in an interview. "That, in-turn, encourages the private sector to invest in projects like the Thomas Jefferson Tower."

In addition to passenger terminals and ticketing, the new buildings could house some retail or restaurant space, Bell said.

Andre Bittas, director of the city's Planning Engineering and Permits Department, said the current BJCTA bus station at the corner of Morris Avenue and 18th Street will be demolished and a new one built in its place. A new Amtrak and Greyhound intermodal center will be built on the corner of 19th Street and Morris Avenue. The 1600 block of Morris Avenue will be used for parking.

Bittas said the project is in the final stages of the design phase and the initial construction could begin within the next two months. Temporary modular buildings will be built between 16th and 17th Streets to for the BJCTA to use while the current building is demolished and a new one built, he said.

Bell said travelers have been embarrassed by the age and appearance of Birmingham's train station compared to those in other cities. He said the new project will give Birmingham a more attractive "front door" to those who travel by train.

via al.com

CommuteSmart gets a new look for the new year

| No Comments | No TrackBacks


The commuting program of greater Birmingham is getting a face lift.

The Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham (RPCGB) says all CommuteSmart vans are getting a new look to begin the 2014 year.

"It has been eight years since we have changed the look of the vehicles, so we really felt like it was time for a face lift," said Lindsey G. West, Deputy Director of Operations.

The CommuteSmart program offers online ridematching, carpool and vanpool services, and more.

The program is designed to help commuters to work save money, reduce traffic and improve the air quality in Jefferson and Shelby counties.

via ALABAMA'S 13

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- With an extensive indoor gym and weight room built in to their Seventh Avenue South headquarters, Brasfield & Gorrie employees already have plenty of exercise options.

But a hearty few of them spent a recent midday break outdoors, donned helmets and mounted the company's five new bikes kept in storage near the company's parking garage.

There, they got a refresher course on the safety basics of being a cyclist in traffic from Tom Garrett, the company's chief safety and human resources officer and an avid cyclist.

Then, it was time to go -- some riders wobbling slightly for what was their first time on a bike in a while. But it didn't take long to get the hang of pedaling, braking and stopping on a few coasts around the lower level of the parking deck.

"It comes back to you, you know, 'just like riding a bike,'" employee Eric Atkins laughed.

The refresher course was in preparation for Brasfield & Gorrie's part of the Lakeview Business Association's new bike sharing program. Employees can now check out bikes to use for lunch, errands or just some recreational exercise during the day.

On Friday, the Brasfield & Gorrie group, along with participating employees from St. Vincent's Hospital, will do their inaugural group ride along Lakeview streets to a lunch meeting at Pepper Place.

Businesses in Lakeview, which stretches from the Red Mountain Expressway eastward from downtown, have partnered with the Alabama Bicycle Coalition to create the bike share.

"Through this program, we're able to introduce cycling to people who perhaps haven't thought about getting on a bike in a long time," said Stan Palla, coalition executive director. "And we're able to do this in a manner that makes it approachable and accessible."

Lakeview got some pointers on starting the program from Alabama Power, which established its program in 2012.

The goals, the businesses say, are to increase awareness of local businesses, promote health and environment benefits and ease the parking crunch for businesses, restaurants and nightspots in the area.

Bike sharing also meshes with plans to install a trail for runners and riders through Lakeview, linking the area with downtown and points west said Wendy Johnson, business association director.

"The Lakeview district is blessed with strong corporate citizens who employ thousands in the area," Johnson said. "A challenge for us was finding a way to bring these people out of their buildings and into the streets and businesses of Lakeview to create a more vibrant district."

BBVA Compass and Sloss Real Estate's Pepper Place development also are participating in the program.

Some businesses, including Brasfield & Gorrie and St. Vincent's, are integrating the bike share into their corporate wellness programs.

"It is an investment in the wellness of our associates and an investment in the growth and development of the Lakeview District," said Nan Priest, executive vice president and chief strategy officer of St. Vincent's Health System.

Biking Birmingham

Bike sharing programs have appeared in several cities as ways to curb traffic congestion, promote fitness and help the environment.

Biking Birmingham's streets can be a bit intimidating for the inexperienced cyclist, which is why Brasfield & Gorrie offered interested employees the chance to learn from an experienced rider before launching the program, company corporate communications coordinator Meg Burton said.

With major streets such as Third Avenue South and Fourth Avenue South bisecting the district, Lakeview gets its share of commuter traffic.

There also are few bike lanes in the area -- which also can be said for metro Birmingham as a whole.

Still, there is a robust cycling community in the city, Garrett said, and in his experience, the city's drivers largely are friendly toward cyclists who obey the rules of the road.

Downtown Program Studied

Even though such programs put a number of less-experienced cyclists on the streets, Garrett said he doesn't think added bike traffic would result in as big of a learning curve for Birmingham drivers or riders as many may think.

He thinks an effort by the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham to bring a public bike sharing network to downtown would work, he said.

Many Lakeview Business Association's members are represented on the planning commission's committee looking into establishing a downtown bike share program in Birmingham.

"I think grassroots bike share efforts like these will demonstrate what we believe to be true: If you give people access to bicycles, they will use them," planning commission deputy director Lindsey West said about the Lakeview program.

A feasibility study is under way on the downtown plan, and a meeting to get public input has been scheduled at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 13 at AIA Birmingham Design Center, 109 S. Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd.

via AL.COM


BIRMINGHAM, AL -
A new effort to increase transportation options in the Birmingham area is now available online, and organizers are looking for your feedback.

According to a news release, the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham has launched a new website to inform residents and collect feedback about the possibility of Bikeshare in Birmingham.

The new website, provides information and videos about starting a bikeshare program in the downtown area of Birmingham.

Residents can also take an online survey on bikeshare and indicate on a map where they would like to see bike share stations.

More than 40 U.S. communities have bikeshare programs.

"We are excited to be exploring the feasibility of bikeshare for Birmingham," said Charles Ball, Executive Director of the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham. "These programs have motivated other communities to improve bike infrastructure and have introduced new audiences to cycling."

via ALABAMA'S 13

University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) employees who utilize CommuteSmart helped make UAB number one in reducing vehicle miles out of 530 companies participating in Jefferson County and Shelby County.

CommuteSmart offerings include ride matching, carpool, walking, biking, teleworking and vanpool services. UAB has partnered with this program since 2007.

The 1,177 UAB employees registered with CommuteSmart reduced a total of 1,391,395 vehicle miles between Oct. 1, 2011, and Sept. 30, 2012. This equates to saving 54,834 gallons of fuel, as well as $195,208 in fuel savings, according to CommuteSmart. Commuters also saved on other costs like vehicle maintenance - this helped them altogether save an estimated $823,558.

Using the program does not only mean fuel and cost savings; CommuteSmart said UAB employees' participation has taken single-occupied vehicles off the road and reduced traffic congestion. This contributed to Birmingham reaching "attainment" status with the six primary air quality standards for the first time in 30 years.

"Making smart lifestyle choices is a key focus of our employee wellness program," said Alesia Jones, chief officer of UAB Human Resources. "Like making a conscious decision to eat better or exercise more, the decision to take CommuteSmart is another way to make a positive impact on our environment."

"Using CommuteSmart fits into the overall goals of UAB," explained Andre Davis, director of UAB Parking and Transportation. "We try to be a green campus by practicing sustainability and efficiency as much as possible, and this helps to support that initiative."

Davis said he is encouraged to see so many employees participating, and he would like to see the amount grow in the future.


via UAB News

A CommuteSmart Update

| No Comments | No TrackBacks


It's been an exciting summer thus far for the CommuteSmart program! CommuteSmart's busiest season kicked off with Bike to Work Day and gaining five new partners; Birmingham Public Library , Harris Tynes Realty - Park Place Building, Harris Tynes Realty - Crescent Building, Daxko and Buck Creek Stained Glass. In addition, CommuteSmart has teamed up with Alabama Power for their annual summer campaign. The campaign consists of a Transportation Day at Alabama Power, a free vehicle emission test for all employees and a CommuteSmart Lunch 'n Learn will close the campaign with a wrap-up celebration at Alabama Power. CommuteSmart has been working to install bike racks at several Birmingham Public Libraries, Woodlawn Business District, CVA, 2nd Avenue North and other businesses within Jefferson and Shelby Counties.

Through social media, CommuteSmart is encouraging commuters to "like" them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. It has also introduced a new blog to give commuters a chance to share their experiences about the program!

Visit the blog at http://commutesmarter.wordpress.com/.