In 30 Days, 47 Greenies Drive 10,276 Fewer Miles

Julia Zorthian PhotoClose to 50 New Haveners accepted a challenge to bike or bus or carpool instead of drive—and succeeded in burning more calories than carbon dioxide in the process.

The measures of their success were reported at a gathering in Chapel Street’s Kitchen Zinc Wednesday evening to celebrate the close of “goNHgo,” a month-long challenge encouraging the use of alternative transportation options in New Haven.

Just an hour later, across the Green in City Hall, the Board of Alders voted for New Haven to embark upon a two-year, million-dollar journey to assess the state of transit in the city and determine options for creating an environment of more convenient and environmentally friendly transportation options.

The 47 participants of goNHgo committed to that goal on a smaller scale, signing up for the campaign and logging their movement each day while trying to walk, bike, carpool or take public transportation instead of taking automobiles. The program was one part of a five-part Healthy City/Healthy Climate challenge intended to improve personal health along with air quality and greenhouse emission levels.

“[goNHgo] is a great way to invite people to consider alternatives. New Haven is a great town for that. There are a lot of buses, trains, biking options and it’s very walkable,” said Chris Schweitzer of the Healthy City/Healthy Climate challenge. “A lot of people haven’t even thought about it.”

Eleven organizations participated. The 47 participating individuals used NuRide, CTRides’ online database, to record and log their trips. (CTRides is the state’s commuter assistance program, sponsored by the Department of Transportation.)

Schweitzer listed the final outcomes logged by NuRide: The challengers reduced their total CO2 emitted by 4.56 tons, shortened their total distance traveled in a car by 10,276 miles, burned a total of 154,163 extra calories and saved $5,754 in transportation costs.

Using the individual NuRide results, challenge organizers could award prizes to the top-performing people and organizations, which challenge organizer Talia Gallagher presented at the event. Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven took home the top prizes for both points earned and CO2 reduced by an organization, and individuals within NHS also performed well, with staff members Kimberly Langin and Colleen Trompeter earning gift cards and a bus pass.

In addition to the awards from goNHgo, Ed Perzanowski of CTRides presented Gallagher and Schweitzer with the program’s “Way to Go Green” award, since CTRides primary role is to encourage transportation mode change within communities.

The first time the goNHgo challenge takes place coincides with a strong push from the city and the Department of Transportation, led by Doug Hausladen, to put money and planning into improving New Haven’s transit services.

Hausladen attended the closing event, and before rushing off to the Board of Alders vote on the transit study, he announced New Haven will build new bike lanes in the next few months in the Edgewood Ave. corner of the city, though plans have not yet been finalized. His pronouncement elicited cheers from attendants.

Gallagher said organizing goNHgo this year was “figuring it out a lot as we went along,” and the Healthy City/Healthy Climate now has a strong foundation to build upon for the second iteration of the challenge next year. Schweitzer added he would like to start next year’s campaign earlier, in May, and work to get more people involved.

“Even though this was fairly limited, we hope it was an invitation to everyone in this area to look at how you can get around and explore [alternative transportation],” Schweitzer said.

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posted by: HewNaven on August 8, 2014  2:11pm

As the title suggests, so-called ‘alternative’ transportation is mostly just unrealized. Only the ‘greenies’ and those who can afford no other means would eschew a car trip. The barrier remains to be the related issues of unticketed speeding and separated bikeways. Until we address that, we’ll continue to have this tiny segment of the city population patting their own backs and the rest ignorant of the issues. Instead of portraying ‘alternative’ transportation as a solution toward ecology, why not tell us the truth: most of us ‘alternatives’ just want to arrive at our destination safely. We’re not trying to appease the angry goddess, Gaia. We’re trying to get to and from work and not die.

posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on August 9, 2014  10:18am

The comparison in the first sentence is meaningless.  You don’t “burn” carbon dioxide; CO2 is produced as a result of burning hydrocarbons.  You also don’t in fact “burn” calories; calories are a measure of how much energy is contained in a material, and released when it is “burned.”  And when that “burning” is done by human energy, e.g. walking or bicycling, CO2 is also released, and exhaled by the person expending the energy.

The meaningful comparison, strictly in terms of CO2 pollution and climate change, would be whether more CO2 was released by burning fuel in a car or by an active person walking, biking, and exhaling, in order to carry that one person the same distance.  I think I can guess the answer, all right, but it should not be expressed in the way that sentence expressed it.

posted by: Chris Willems on August 9, 2014  10:22am

I am thrilled by this development!  I just set up a NuRide account!

When we were ready to purchase our first home 4 years ago, we purposefully selected a house walking distance to the train station.  I have been commuting by rail and then biking or walking to my high school science teaching position in New Haven.  This past year, I used public transportation to commute over 90% of my trips.  This kept me from driving 2,184 miles this past school year!

I share my carbon-reducing lifestyle choices with my students.  Our children are ready for radical changes to our transportation status-quo.  Are we?

I hope this is the beginning of more support for public and alternative transportation in the greater New Haven area. 

Would the “Commuter Tax Benefit Program” be an incentive that encourages greater use of public transportation?

If so, can the City of New Haven and New Haven Public Schools to make this program available to employees?