Saturday, June 30, 2012

Considerable gap between transit and auto costs

Microsoft Excel spreadsheet: Percent of income spent on transportation
Cost of travel for transit-proximate and car-dependant households
Source of data: Taras Grescoe, citing Brookings Institute study
From Taras Grescoe, author of Straphanger (Times Books, 2012), comes this amazing statistic about the cost of travel in households that are near public transit versus those that rely upon cars:
“According to a Brookings Institution study, transit-proximate households in the United States devote only 9 percent of their income to transportation compared to 25 percent for the car dependent.”
Book cover: Straphanger by Taras Grescoe
Cover: Straphanger
by Taras Grescoe
The book has accompanied me during my bus commute each day. I used Microsoft Excel to create this chart, which visualizes the considerable gap between transportation costs.

Clearly, the cost of auto travel adds up and I need only compare the monthly cost of my Lake Transit pass -- $40 for the entire month -- and the cost to fill up the tank -- at least $40 a week.

Grescoe cites additional health benefits for relying upon public transit:
“Because every trip to a bus stop or subway station starts with a walk, transit users in the United States average 19 minutes of walking a day -- close to the 22 minutes a day recommended by the U.S. Center for Disease Control.”
Grescoe recommends the use of, which rates neighborhoods nationwide from 0, completely car-dependent, to 100 for a “Walker’s Paradise.”

My neighborhood, I was pleased to note, rates 75, very walkable.

Straphanger (388.4 GRESCOE) can be found through the combined catalog system of our Lake, Mendocino and Sonoma County libraries. An excerpt from the book’s introduction is published at

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Did someone say ‘graph’?: Taras Grescoe’s carbon emissions

Chart displaying carbon emissions for kerosene-fueled jet, diesel-fueled car and electric train
Carbon emissions for kerosene-fueled jet, diesel-fueled car and electric train
Source of data: Taras Grescoe, citing the Deutsche Bahn website
Straphanger by Taras Grescoe (Times Books, 2012) has accompanied me this week on my daily Lake Transit commute.

Grescoe, like me, is a “straphanger,” defined as “somebody who, by choice or necessity, relies on public transport, rather than a privately owned automobile.” His book argues for greater investment in public transportation and less dependence upon automobiles.

During last night’s reading, I encountered a comparison of Grescoe’s 1,000-mile journey by train from Paris to Copenhagen with other forms of travel.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bottled water labeling

Ashland Food Co-op logo stainless steel water bottles
From the Ashland Food Co-op website:
Reuseable water bottles are environmentally-responsible
alternative to single-serving bottled water has compiled a glossary of bottled-water labeling terms and what they say about the water’s origins. The essay cites a finding by SymphonyIRI Group: that sales of bottled water increased 2 percent, to $7.8 billion, from August 2010 to August 2011.

Terms include Artesian, Distilled, Mineral, Purified, Sparkling and Spring. Among the terms is P.W.S., which stands for “Public water source” or municipal water supply.

“Whatever the bottle says, don’t be misled by crisp blue labels and pictures of mountains,” the essay states: “Forty-seven percent of the bottled water sold in the U.S. is tap water that’s been purified, according to data from the Beverage Marketing Association, a trade group.”

Given the cost of purchasing something that I could get free from the tap, especially since the likelihood is that it was bottled from tap water anyway, I think it much more attractive -- and environmentally sustainable -- to use a refillable water bottle.

Read the complete essay at

My thanks to TapItWater for bringing attention to this essay, assisted by a re-tweet on Twitter by Matt Weiser of the Sacramento Bee.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Next steps for AFC climate-friendly transportation

Bike giveaway promotion from April 10 at Ashland Food Co-op
From its Facebook page: on April 10, the Ashand Food Co-op promoted
an opportunity to win a bike offered by Honest Tea
The highlight for me reading the Ashland Food Co-op’s 2011 Annual Report that arrived in the mail this week was the annual report upon its social responsibility. From a portion that addresses climate-friendly transportation:
“We have a number of programs in place to encourage climate-friendly transportation. We provide secure parking for bicycle commuters and shoppers, and we give weekly prizes to employees who walk, bike, and carpool. We have a program to collect bikes from the community, repair them, and give them to employees for free. In 2011 six employees received free refurbished bicycles, and several others received free bicycle repairs and parts.”
I appreciate this emphasis upon alternatives to single-occupant auto use but would like to suggest additional objectives for the sustainability committee:

  • Promote commuting by bus with the Rogue Valley Transportation District’s new employer bus pass program. “By providing transit options to your employees, your business will be rewarded by a reduction in parking requirements, a healthier staff, and by improved employee and community relations.” According to the RVTD, the monthly price of bus fare is $3.85 per employee for companies that buy the pass for all of their employees. It invites businesses to call  RVTD Employer Services at 541-608-2411 or email
  • Devote outreach and education toward changing consumer behavior. Offer to be a sales outlet for RVTD bus passes, which are currently available at the RVTD Front Street station, 200 S. Front St. in Medford; at the administration offices, located at 3200 Crater Lake Ave. in Medford; and at the  City of Ashland Utlities Office at 20 E. Main St. In addition, encourage ride-share among AFC customers.

The co-op’s ongoing problem with a “jam-packed” parking lot will not go away simply by adding more spaces. Single-occupant auto use will perpetuate this problem, particularly as the annual report notes 7.5 percent sales growth.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Cover that Klean Kanteen

The more successfully we convince our friends to carry reusable water bottles instead of single-serving plastic, the more necessary it becomes to tell each other’s bottles apart.

Water bottle slipcover
A cloth slipcover serves the purpose of differentiating between bottles. It also helps provide insulation but I have found that with the double-walled Klean Kanteens, extra insulation is unnecessary.

For a friend’s bottle I created this cozy out of T-shirt material. She cut letters freehand and I stitched them centered onto a rectangular piece of fabric about 10 inches wide and 3 inches high. I folded the fabric lengthwise with the letters inside and stitched the 3-inch sides together. I gave myself a six-eighths-of-an-inch seam allowance.

I then turned the resulting tube inside out and, voila, a personalized bottle slipcover.

Jersey knit is tremendously stretchy and these are approximations. If the cozy is at first too loose or its fit loosens afterward, you can try taking the seam in.