Monday, December 10, 2012

Give Yourself and our Earth the Best Gifts

  While dashing through the snow in the New York metro area, many people would love to have a one-horse open sleigh to take them on their errands, laughing all the way. Reality means we're navigating through crowds of shoppers, workers, tourists and travelers this holiday season and that can make our spirits less than bright.

   We at Clean Air NY have a wish list we'd love for everyone who believes as we do, that taking everyday steps to improve air quality is the best gift for our planet, to take to heart.

   First, we wish that more people would seize the opportunity to drive their vehicles less and to choose alternatives to travel. Explore the range of what's available for you, whether it is bus, rail, subway, ferries, carpooling, vanpooling, or when the weather allows, biking or walking. Any of these options will produce more cash savings and less stress than if you were stuck in traffic.

   Second, we wish that for those drivers who cannot adopt these alternatives into their routines, even occasionally, to be creative in combining all their errands into a single trip. They will save themselves time and money and reduce stress on themselves and their vehicles. Take it easy as you start and stop your vehicles; reduce idling time; remove items weighing down your trunk; keep tires properly inflated; and use the overdrive and cruise control features if you have them.

   The biggest gift of all by taking any one of these steps: Reducing the amount of fuel you use improves air quality, since transportation accounts for 38 percent of all greenhosue gas emissions in New York State. Since we all know traffic never seems to take a holiday, celebrate this holiday season with gifts of wiser behavior and better health for everyone on our planet.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Counting our blessings on Thanksgiving

We all reflect on the bounty of the season as we gather for Thanksgiving each year. Amid the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, New Yorkers are facing a holiday this year that is bittersweet. Among the many powerful truths emerging from the storm: Sharing information saves lives.

Clean Air NY, as an educational outreach initiative sponsored by the New York State Department of Transportation, wants everyone who travels over the Thanksgiving weekend to keep that lesson uppermost in mind. The storm underscored how important it is to know about the impacts of weather emergencies and other incidents that affect our complicated transportation infrastructure.

We are grateful for those in the New York metro area who hear our message about improving air quality and take action. Even as we know that using mass transit, carpooling or combining trips can help reduce air pollution, we also know that such actions can be life-saving because they reduce the number of vehicles on our roads and highways.

A vital tool, no matter the weather, is 511NY, the free traffic, travel and transit information source provided by the New York State Department of Transportation via phone and Web at As Hurricane Sandy pummeled the lower Hudson Valley, New York metro region and Long Island, countless people benefited from the services 511NY provides. It continues to aid travelers who want the most up-to-date data on conditions before they head out, no matter the mode.

This Thanksgiving, let us remember that helping others can be done in many ways. Communication and information about the best ways to travel are central to ensuring our safety as well as cleaning our skies.  

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Find your fun amid fall's foliage

  What better way to savor the splendor of the season in the greater New York metropolitan area than to walk or to ride a bike? These experiences offer a bounty of benefits: visual delights, terrific exercise, camaraderie among friends and family and, best of all, fewer motor vehicles generating emissions. Seize the moments now before winter curbs your enthusiasm for some outdoor activities.    
   There are abundant opportunities for leaf-peeping adventures in the region. While you are admiring the reds and golds on display, remember that all those falling leaves can be put to good use in gardens and on lawns because they are useful high-carbon materials. Mix the leaves with grass clippings in your compost pile and you’ll be grateful when spring planting season arrives. Shredded leaves also can be effective mulch for soil, adding nutrients and helping it retain moisture. Burning leaves, which is banned in many communities, is never good for air quality; leaf smoke may contain noxious chemicals such as benzo(a)pyrene, suspected as a major factor in lung cancer. Carbon monoxide in leaf smoke also can bind with hemoglobin in the blood. 
   To get going on your journeys, check out these choices for the bicyclist and pedestrian: 

In New York City:
In the Lower Hudson Valley:

In Long Island:
  Wherever you wander, we at Clean Air NY encourage you to explore, the free traffic, travel and transit information source provided by the New York State Department of Transportation to help you know what you need before you go.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Get in the Game with Smart Travel Choices

  Sports fans love autumn in New York. In the greater metropolitan area, enjoy even more excitement with the upcoming debut of the Brooklyn Nets. The basketball team’s owners report that 10,000 season tickets already have been sold for its new Barclays Center at 620 Atlantic Ave. Smart sports fans also are Clean Air NY fans and know the best ways to see all the action in every venue is via mass transit.

  In keeping with this spirit, a new subway entry at Barclays debuted on Sept. 17. This center connects nine subway lines, 11 bus lines and the Long Island Rail Road so that the need to drive to the new arena is eliminated. Check out

  Want to see the rival Knicks? You have easy transit and travel options to get to Madison Square Garden.
  If you’re always ready for some football, travel to the Giants and Jets home games at the MetLife Stadium with this helpful guidance: New Meadowlands Stadium.

  Even as the baseball season winds down, diamond devotees know the best ways to see the Yankees and Mets swinging their bats at their home parks is to check out New Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, respectively.   

  Explore the free traffic, transit and travel information source,, to learn more about what you need to know before you go. The site is provided by the New York State Department of Transportation, which sponsors Clean Air NY.   

Combine several travel options, such as carpool, transit and walking, to all your sporting events and you'll score a win for cleaner air.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

On the Alert for Cleaner Air, No Matter the Season

   Everyone who lives and works in the metropolitan New York area learns how to deal with the challenges of the changing seasons. With autumn's arrival, the weather condtions can vary widely, sometimes daily. Fans of Clean Air NY who do their part to improve the air quality with simple and easy steps keep those commitments 365 days a year.

   While summer typically has the highest number of Air Quality Action Day alerts, unhealthy levels of particulate matter can occur at any time of the year. Traffic on many urban streets never seems to take a holiday.

    Such alerts are important to anyone who may have respiratory or immune system issues and to other sensitive groups, such as the elderly and children. Air Quality Action Day alerts are issued through Clean Air NY's sponsor, the New York State Department of Transportation, and its 511NY traffic, transit and travel information source, When these days occur, consider these actions to improve your own health and those of your fellow citizens:

    Eat lunch at work. By not driving to dine or to pick something up, you won't add to the elevated levels of pollution. 

    Take mass transit and you'll take one more vehicle off the road. Carpools and vanpools reduce the volume of emissions being generated, too. Working from home on an alert day is another option for some people.

    If you have to drive, try to plan your schedule so that you can combine all your errands to be completed in a single trip. In addition to clearing the air, you'll save time, money and wear-and-tear on your engine. Follow these tips and fall's skies will be brighter for everyone.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Back to school, back to work, back to busy commutes for everyone

   Summer is nearing its finale, surrendering to fall's faster pace. For many families, the Labor Day weekend is a last chance for a getaway before resuming our commuting schedules. Back-to-school shopping excursions and journeys to colleges add to the mix on our busier roadways. Arriving with this new season are new opportunities to be smarter in going about our routines.

    The best choices are those that decrease what is pumped into the atmosphere, no matter the time of year. Transportation accounts for 38 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in New York State. If we minimize the time spent driving,by taking alternate forms of transportation, such as mass transit, carpools and vanpools, and by combining trips, we lessen the number of Air Quality Action Days. These alerts signal higher ground-level ozone pollution and particulate matter levels that can affect sensitive groups, such as the elderly, children and people with certain respiratory or immune illnesses. Clean Air NY offers plenty of tips on how to cope with these alerts that are issued through its sponsor, the New York State Department of Transportation, and its 511NY traffic, transit and travel information source,

    Fall brings special hurdles for families who want to reduce their carbon footprints. As the school year begins, morning drive time traffic swells. More children are being shuttled to and from school by their parents and fewer students are walking or biking than in decades past. Extra trips for after-school activities make afternoon/evening drive times more hectic, too. With a greater awareness of how these trips add up, families and all commuters can take simple steps to subtract some of them from their routines. In areas where walking or bicycling to and from school and work are viable options, families should consider them, even if doing so every day isn't feasible. The benefit of that exercise, better health, is a perfect complement to the benefit of cleaner air.

     Another lesson to learn for students of every age is the value of eco-driving. The definition of this effective strategy comes from "Eco-driving is a way of driving that reduces fuel consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and accident rates." How to accomplish this? Go easy on stopping and starting your vehicles; reduce idling time; remove items weighing down your trunk; keep tires properly inflated; and use the overdrive and cruise control featuers if you have them. These tips and more show a little knowledge is a powerful help to our planet.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Keep Up a Healthier Commute

Our record-breaking temperatures this summer have made travelers even more aware of the impact our transportation choices can make. Being stranded in traffic, whether you are vacation-bound or going to work, increases the levels of pollutants in the atmosphere and adds stress in many ways.

Poor air quality has been linked to a range of respiratory issues, including asthma, and there are other concerns motorists should consider in their commute, according to a study published this May in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Christine Hoehner of Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., the lead author, said people who drive long distances to and from work face an increased risk of "higher weight, lower fitness levels and higher blood pressure, all of which are strong predictors of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers."

She noted, "Previous studies have pointed to daily exposure to traffic, particularly the unpredictability of traffic, as being a source of chronic stress," raising blood pressure rates; she said these new findings are generating potential impacts on stamina, energy and overall well-being.

Commuters can be creative in choosing alternatives to get to where they need to go, combining one or more of these options - carpooling, park-and-ride lots, mass transit, bicycling and walking. Each can be viable to shorten the time people spend behind the wheels of their vehicles. The benefits are plentiful, from cleaner air to better health.

To inspire you to make smarter decisions about your travels, we at Clean Air NY encourage you to be mindful of Air Quality Action Days when they are announced and to explore, the free traffic, transit and travel information source of the New York State Department of Transportation. Good health is a precious resource, just like clean air, that we all need to protect.   

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Celebrate our nation and its resources

Millions of Americans will salute the founders of our United States on the Fourth with festivities of every size, from parades and fireworks to quiet backyard barbecues. Because so many people are traveling on the Fourth and throughout July, we at Clean Air NY want to alert you to how increased demands on our transportation system create higher pollution levels this season, especially amid summer's sweltering heat.

Motor vehicles are a prominent factor in air pollution as the biggest contributors to what generates ground-level ozone, a major pollutant in our cities. This ozone is produced as fossil fuels are burned, allowing hydrocarbons to react with nitrogen oxide in the presence of sunlight (ultraviolet radiation). As more vacationers hit the roads and streets, more ozone is generated, contributing to cardiovascular and respiratory problems, particularly for sensitive groups.

If you are traveling to a holiday party or event, share a ride with someone or take mass transit for part of the trip. If you're the host, encourage your guests to take these simple actions so everyone can avoid the stresses of holiday traffic.

If you are heading to a vacation, whether it is a weekend in the city to see the sights or a longer journey, know before you go where and when is the best time to travel. By checking out the New York State Department of Transportation's free traffic, travel and transit information service,, you can learn about any alerts and delays as you map out your route.

Vacationers want to breathe easier this month. With some smart choices, they can do so and honor the legacy of all those who struggled to make our country independent and free. Clean air is part of that celebration.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

For dads, grads and everyone: Be smart this summer

June is abloom with travel plans, to celebrate graduations, Father’s Day and the official start of summer. At Clean Air NY, we know there are plenty of presents to give in the spirit of the season that keep on giving and improve air quality.

If your dads or grads are car buffs, give them gift certificates to get an oil change or a tuneup. A well-maintained vehicle produces fewer emissions. For bonus points, do these simple maintenance procedures for them, including checking tire pressure.

For the runner, hiker or rollerblade enthusiast, the proper footwear and other gear make thoughtful gifts, not the least of which is good health. These activities help your loved ones stay in shape and provide cleaner air for all as they reduce their carbon footprints.

Using transit slashes emissions, too. For the grad on a tight budget and who is out there looking for a job, a useful gift is a transit pass or Metro Card. 

When you're out looking for gifts for dads and grads, shopping for the essentials for a picnic or attending the latest summer blockbuster at the theater, don’t waste time, energy and patience looking for a closer space at malls or entertainment venues. Park your car at the first open spot and walk; you’ll reduce the emissions from that endless circling and idling and it probably won’t take you any longer to get inside.

For a glorious gift, take a bike trip across some of New York’s beautiful bike trails. Use 511NY to search for bicycle routes by geographic location. Summer is the time to shine!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Tips for Memorial Day Travelers

With the long Memorial Day weekend approaching, Americans are bound for beaches, barbecues, parades and other gatherings to honor those who died for our nation. The holiday also kicks off summer, unofficially, so now is a perfect time to make smart travel choices that improve air quality.

If you and your friends and family will travel to the same destination together, share a ride. Splitting the cost of parking and fuel among multiple riders saves money, especially with high gas prices. More carpools mean fewer cars heading to recreational areas, alleviating congestion and pollution. To find out more about traffic conditions, check out

 If you are the driver, make sure to stop filling your gas tank when you hear the pump “click.” If you keep trying to top off the tank after the click, fumes will escape into the atmosphere instead of remaining safely in the tank.

Finally, fill your tires and check that every part of your car is in good condition. A well-maintained vehicle gets much better gas mileage, produces fewer emissions and helps ensure that you get to celebrate the holiday wherever you go!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Science Behind Particulate Matter

Haze border=
image by net_efekt used under Creative Commons license

The two forms of air pollution that prompt Clean Air NY to send out an alert for an Air Quality Action Day are ground-level ozone pollution and particulate matter (PM). Here we explain how particulate matter is formed, the different ways it is classified and how it affects us. If you want to learn more about ground-level ozone pollution, check out the blog we wrote about the science behind ground-level ozone.

PM is created in numerous ways. It can be generated indirectly when emissions from burning fuels — especially emissions from motor vehicles, electric power plants and other industrial processes — react with sunlight and water vapor. It also is produced by grilling food on charcoal or gas, burning leaves and brush and burning wood in a fireplace or wood stove. PM pollution also is released into the atmosphere when gaseous pollutants, such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, react to form fine particles.

Particulate matter is measured in microns and traditionally is classified into two size categories — PM2.5 and PM10. Particulates of the smaller size category (PM2.5) can be called fine particulates, fine particles or ambient fine particulate pollution. The larger particulate category (PM10) most commonly is called inhalable coarse particulates. Some of the most severe health effects, depending on exposure levels, are associated with ambient fine particulate pollution.

Fine particulate matter is one of the most serious air pollutants: the particles are so small that they can get right through the nasal passage, past the trachea and into the deepest parts of the lungs. The particles also can enter the bloodstream via the lungs and damage the body in ways similar to cigarette smoking. PM pollution can cause heart attacks, strokes and lung cancer and has been linked to aggravation of respiratory and cardiovascular symptoms.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Biography of Fresh the Clean Air Cloud


The Clean Air NY initiative for the New York metro area began in 2006. As the program helped New Yorkers switch to using alternate forms of transportation, air pollution began to decrease. One day in 2009, so much clean air had accumulated that the gravity between the particles pulled them together into a highly concentrated cloud of clean air, and Fresh was born!

Since then, Fresh has helped Clean Air NY encourage New Yorkers to reduce their emissions and driving even more. He’s met many of you in person at numerous events; check out all the photos on our Facebook page and make sure you “Like” our page while you’re there.

Most importantly, Fresh has helped Clean Air NY spread our message that taking alternative forms of transportation is a convenient and effective way to reduce air pollution. Together, Fresh and Clean Air NY have increased awareness about air quality issues in the region. Our mission has resonated with New Yorkers everywhere. As a result, more than 9 million miles of vehicle travel are kept off our roadways each week by everyone who has been inspired by Fresh and Clean Air NY to take mass transit, to carpool and to combine errands into a single trip instead of driving alone!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Presidential Support for Air Quality

White House
image by acameronhuff used under Creative Commons license

Reducing air pollution and improving air quality have been on the agenda for our political parties in the United States for decades. In honor of Presidents’ Day, here are some presidents who have made significant contributions to cleaner air.

President Theodore Roosevelt, often cited as the father of the modern environmental movement, made protecting our planet and its resources a critical objective of his presidency. He was able set aside 150 million acres of timberland as public domains with the the Forest Reserve Act of 1891. This is a crucial resource for converting air pollution back into oxygen for us to breathe.

President Richard Nixon signed the Clean Air Act of 1970, which was the first environmental law to incorporate a provision for citizen suits and the first piece of legislation to use the term “Clean Air.” In this way, our own program honors this law. For more information about the Clean Air Act and other federal air quality regulations, check out the blog we wrote about it last year.

Jimmy Carter, our 39th president, was the first to introduce regulations for Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE). These regulations help improve air quality by requiring manufacturers to incorporate better fuel efficiency in their cars and light trucks. CAFE compares a vehicle’s “footprint,” which is a measurement of its size based on its wheelbase and average track width, to how many miles it gets per gallon of fuel. Larger vehicles are permitted to get fewer miles per gallon, but if any vehicle doesn’t achieve the minimum fuel efficiency allowed under the CAFE regulations its manufacturer will have to pay a penalty.

When signing the Air Quality Act of 1967, President Lyndon Johnson said, “Contaminated air began in this country as a big-city problem. But in just a few years, the gray pall of pollution has spread throughout the Nation.” He also said, “[The Air Quality Act of 1967] will help our States to control the number one source of pollution--our automobiles.” Fast forward to 2012, automobiles are still a prominent source of air pollution today, especially in the New York metro area. One solution for addressing the pollution caused by automobiles is to use alternate transportation, such as mass transit, carpooling and bicycling, whenever possible. Doing so goes a long way toward reducing pollution in the region!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Behind the Scenes for Clean Air NY's "Real New Yorker" Radio Spots

You've probably heard our "Real New Yorkers" ads on the radio, where everyday people share why they take alternative transportation to improve air quality and reduce pollution. Here's a cool behind-the-scenes clip!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

New in 2012 – Changes to Commuter Pretax Benefits

1040 - US Tax Return
image by 401K used under Creative Commons license

As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the amount of money that an individual could spend tax-free for qualifying transportation costs, such as taking mass transit or riding in a registered vanpool, was increased in 2009 temporarily from $125 per month to $230 per month. This short-term boost was scheduled to last through 2011. On Jan. 1, 2012, the amount of money that someone can spend tax-free on qualifying transportation costs returned to its original level of $125.

But these benefits are still an important way to reduce air pollution and to save some money. Mass transit and vanpooling help keep cars off roads in the New York metro area, thus improving the region’s air quality. Paying for these costs without being taxed means you owe less money come tax time! Talk to your employers to see if they offer pretax commuter benefits. If they do not, you can refer them to 511NY if they are interested in setting them up.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Clean Air NY’s Partners Help Improve Air Quality

IKEA Red Hook, Brooklyn
image by Tanenhaus used under Creative Commons license

Clean Air NY’s latest Champion is IKEA’s Brooklyn Store! IKEA has made a companywide commitment to sustainability and corporate social responsibility. One way its location in Red Hook, Brooklyn, has honored that commitment is by partnering with Clean Air NY. Not only has it helped spread the word about Clean Air NY by allowing CANY staff to visit its cafeteria to speak with employees during their lunch breaks, but IKEA is offering free lunches to employees on Air Quality Action Days to encourage them not to drive out for lunch when air pollution is expected to be high. In addition, IKEA’s employees are offered commuter pretax benefits to encourage them to take mass transit and 32 of its employees are enrolled.

Last month, Clean Air NY invited all our partners, including IKEA, to participate in a friendly competition to see who could refer the most new people to Clean Air NY by getting them to sign up for Air Quality Action Day updates via e-mail or text. All of the partners did an amazing job. Combined, they helped refer more than 400 subscribers to Clean Air NY! The following four companies led the way:

Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), New York City, achieved first place, referring the most people to Clean Air NY. You can read all about how it is working to improve the environment on its sustainability Web site portal. Pfizer, Rockland County, won second place; it has implemented many company initiatives at its Pearl River location, making commuting easier and more affordable for employees and reducing air pollution. Underwriters Laboratories, Long Island, was third. UL provides incentives to employees who commute using alternate transportation and holds lunch-in days on Air Quality Action Days so employees can avoid driving for lunch when air pollution is predicted to be high. New York Power Authority (NYPA), Westchester County, came in fourth. It has created a sustainability action plan to help drive sustainability efforts throughout the authority.

Once again, we want to thank all our partners for their continued support of better air quality in New York!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Take Transit to the Slopes

Ski slope
image by used under Creative Commons license

This winter, many New Yorkers are hitting the slopes at the region’s premier ski and snowboard resorts. According to the National Ski Areas Association, New York State has more winter sport resorts than any other state! Even better, some of these resorts are accessible by mass transit from the New York metro area. Taking transit to the slopes instead of driving eliminates air pollution from vehicle travel, thus improving air quality throughout the region.

Thunder Ridge has been hosting skiers and snowboarders since 1948. The resort, just one hour north of New York City, provides a free shuttle from the Patterson stop on the Metro-North service. Purchase a Thunder Ski Package ticket from any Metro-North ticket vending machine to get a discounted fare and lift ticket! Find out more.

Slightly farther north, in the Catskill Mountains, are the Windham and Hunter mountain resorts. The Adirondack Trailways bus company serves both locations with buses from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Visit its site for timetables, fares and more details about bus routes. Both resorts also have independent bus companies serving their locations as well. Here are the lists for both Hunter and Windham. Here’s a link to the Port Authority site as well.

Transporting ski and snowboard equipment using mass transit is easy. The trains are equipped with overhead storage racks, and the buses have cargo space beneath them. If you are unable to take transit, carpooling is another great way to reduce air pollution while traveling to the region’s slopes. If you do have to drive by yourself, make sure you follow our tips for drivers so you can still help limit the amount of air pollution produced by your trip.

Safe travels and happy riding!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Avoid Winter’s Driving Challenges with Alternate Ways to Travel

Tire Marks
image by Horia Varlan used under Creative Commons license

Winter storms can create challenges on our roads, more so than at any other time of the year. Using mass transit is a great alternative to driving if you have to go out in inclement weather. By taking these options instead of driving during winter storms, you can help make the commuting safer. Fewer vehicles on our streets and roadways allow snow and ice removal crews more room to operate, lower the odds of collisions and even help reduce air pollution. You can get to and from your destinations with less stress and be more productive in your daily tasks.

Another good choice for an employee, if you have an arrangement with your employer, is to work remotely. It can be a smarter idea, especially during this season. Technology ensures that the work can get done and you’ll also contribute to cleaner air, less traffic congestion and a healthier environment.

No matter what the weather, before you go, find out what you need to know through to learn the latest and most accurate information about all traffic, travel and transit conditions.

Friday, January 13, 2012

We All Have the Right to Breathe Cleaner Air

Martin Luther King, Jr. 1964 (source: Library of Congress)
image by Mike Licht used under Creative Commons license

The United States commemorates the January 15, 1929, birth date of civil rights pioneer Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with a national holiday on the third Monday in January each year that recognizes his contributions to human rights causes around the world. In honor of Dr. King, this blog explores why Clean Air NY believes we all have the right to breathe cleaner air and outlines some steps being taken to make this a reality for all New Yorkers.

Poor air quality has been linked to a range of respiratory issues, including asthma. While other health issues are linked directly to behaviors we can control, such as exercising more to reduce cholesterol, we don’t have as much influence over the air we breathe. Short of moving to a new location, the best way to combat the health risks associated with breathing polluted air is to do your part to maintain good air quality in your region.

Fortunately, federal and local governments are putting pollution-reducing measures in place to help New Yorkers have clean air to breathe year-round. Last year, we covered some examples of both: Check out our history of the federal Clean Air Act and our case study of the pedestrian plazas in Midtown Manhattan.

While government initiatives will go a long way toward improving air quality in the New York metro area, we also must do our part. Using alternate forms of transportation is one of the best ways to reduce air pollution, so take mass transit or carpool to your destination whenever possible. For weekly updates with more tips about improving air quality, subscribe to our blog. You can use RSS, the “Join this site” button in the right column of the page, or just press CTRL + D (CMD + D on a Mac) to bookmark this site and make sure to visit us again soon!