Monday, July 13, 2009

Get Some Relief from the Heat of High Gas Prices and Clean Our Air of Excess Pollutants: Dive into Carpooling!

Finally, summer has embraced New York's metro area! It's time for family picnics in parks, outdoor parties, relaxing in hammocks, sports and other exercise outdoors. During the warm summer days, we feel good to be outside and filling our lungs with some fresh air. However, New York's air needs to be healthier.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), New York's downstate region does not meet federal standards for air quality. As indicated by EPA tests, the air has harmful pollutants, a risk not only to sensitive groups, such as people with asthma or emphysema, but to those without health problems. Studies have also shown that pollutants can aggravate symptoms in people with pre-existing conditions, such as heart disease or high blood pressure.

The increasing numbers of people with respiratory problems signal that something is stirring in our air, even if some people do not think there are harmful effects.

Our cars are major contributors to air pollution. Most people believe that a single car is not going to make a difference, so they choose to drive by themselves. But each car that is on the road is releasing pollutants, and too many cars equal air pollution. How do we solve this problem? By jumping into something that some New Yorkers may be wary of - carpooling.

If more of us carpooled to work or to our summer activities, we'd experience some great benefits - fuel bills would be cut; there would be less wear and tear on our cars; there would be fewer cars on the road and, thus, less traffic; passengers would catch up on reading, e-mails or shut-eye; and our air would be healthier.

Some might think the idea of carpooling and not being in control of our own transit would feel like a nuisance. We might fear being at work, far from home and needing to get back home in case of an emergency and having no transportation. That is why your local transportation management association (TMA) offers a guaranteed ride home program that allows employees paid rides in the event that their transportation from work is unavailable. For more information, visit your appropriate TMA's Web site:
These organizations also help commuters enter the carpooling system, linking people who want to carpool with others in their area. To find a carpool partner or vanpool in your area, visit

When comparing carpooling to driving alone, carpooling is the more environmentally friendly option. High-occupancy vehicle lanes on some major highways allow passenger cars with at least two people to travel amid less congestion. Some people may love the comfort of their own cars for various reasons, but try stepping away from your comfort zone and carpool for the greater good.

Take some relief from the heat of high gas prices and clean up the air that we breathe - it's time to dive into carpooling!

Guest blog by Jessica Wade, Clean Air NY/MetroPool summer intern.

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