2011-06-09 / Family

How To Rely Less On Your Car

All across the country – in cities, suburbs and rural areas – more people are turning to different transportation options, such as carpooling, car-sharing, public transportation and even bicycles.

According to a recent Home Design Trends Survey from the American Institute of Architects, there has been growing demand for housing options closer to public transit. Today, most urban and even many suburban areas are providing increasing numbers of public transit options to help people rely less on cars.

“You don’t have to live in or near a major city to take advantage of different means of transportation to save energy and money,” said Bill Worthen, Director, Resource Architect for Sustainability with The American Institute of Architects. “Of course, for those living in cities, it’s easier to rely more on public transportation. Living in transit- oriented areas also helps keep down sprawl. And the less dependence we have on cars, the greater we reduce traffic collisions and pollution.”

No matter where you call home, there are several practical tips to help you save on gas or get a jumpstart on a more sustainable lifestyle:

Biking is a great option – even if you don’t own a bike. Bike sharing programs exist in many locations (check with local Chambers of Commerce to see where they are available), and more bike lanes have been added to streets nationwide.

Carpooling, or car sharing, is another option to cut costs of car travel. It also reduces the number of carbon emissions and traffic congestion. “High Occupancy Vehicle lanes” (or commuter lanes), are often free of traffic, offering great incentive for carpoolers to get to destinations quickly.

If you’re ready to take the plunge and go without a car, car sharing companies provide easy, affordable solutions for those times when you need a car. Programs like Zipcar provide access to thousands of cars globally, with gas and insurance included.

Commuting to work or just going to another city for fun? Commuter rails are great for avoiding traffic and parking hassles, while reducing gas consumption.

An even less expensive option is the bus. Local buses have long regarded as the “last resort” of public transportation. Contrary to these stereotypes, busses have become great alternatives for getting around while reducing your carbon footprint, says Worthen. Many local bus systems have been revamped to provide greater availability, extra lines, new fleets and amenities. Some long-distance bus services, such as Greyhound, offer more comfortable seating and free Wi-Fi access. Many even use cleaner energy sources instead of gas.

For more ideas for relying less on your car, and for other sustainable practices, visit www.aia.org.

“No matter where you live, relying less on your car throughout the year will not only help your pockets, but the environment, “ says Worthen. “There are many tangible solutions now available and you can even lobby local officials for additional options.”

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