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How to make every day Earth Day

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Every time someone chooses to ride Link light rail, Sounder commuter rail, bus rapid transit or express bus service, they are helping our region’s economy and the environment. They are also helping themselves. 

In 2002, my family participated in the third round of Way to Go Seattle’s One-Less-Car Demonstration Study. Along with 40 other households, we temporarily gave up the use of our second car. We kept a diary of where we went, how we got around and how we felt. Each household received a weekly stipend of around $85 a week. 

As the full-time working soccer mom of two, it was a remarkable journey into the true costs of car ownership – in terms of the environment and our own lives. Instead of going our separate ways, for nine weeks (earlier studies ran six weeks) my family did just about everything together. Our stress levels plunged along with our pace. We saved money, increased physical exercise, and felt more connected to our community and each other. All total, the three rounds of the study resulted in 41,463 fewer miles driven – almost enough to circle the earth twice. Program participants reduced CO2 emissions by 30,198 pounds, which is comparable to 15 six-lane swimming pools of pollution. Twenty percent of households in the study gave up their second car. I wonder how many more would have joined them had Link light rail been an option.

These days it is much easier to get around without a car. In 2016 nearly 43 million chose Sound Transit trains and buses, a 23 percent increase from ridership rates in 2015. When the major system expansion approved by voters in 2016 is complete, Central Puget Sound residents and visitors will have access to a world-class network that will connect 16 cities with light rail, 30 cities with bus rapid transit/ST Express bus service and 12 cities with Sounder commuter rail. Transit-oriented development will enable more people to find more affordable housing closer to their transit station.

Sound Transit’s commitment to sustainability

In addition to expanding the transit network, Sound Transit’s commitment to sustainability means working to improve regional air quality and investing in local clean energy projects. The agency just announced an innovative 10-year agreement with Puget Sound Energy (PSE) that will enable Link light rail trains to run on 100 percent clean energy starting in 2019. Under the agreement, which is the first of its kind in Washington state, Sound Transit will purchase wind energy from PSE’s Green Direct program

In 2015, Sound Transit riders saved greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to burning more than 15.6 million gallons of gasoline and powering more than 20,000 homes for a year. By operating Link light rail on green power, Sound Transit will be offering a carbon-neutral alternative to driving that will further improve the quality of our air. 

As Sound Transit expands transportation options in our region, it is reducing carbon dioxide emissions and helping us slow down the driving pace of our lives and find breathing space in which to connect to one another. 

Making every day Earth Day by choosing public transit keeps getting easier.

(Editor’s note: Galen works as a writer for Sound Transit and credits her experience with One-Less-Car as a catalyst for making better use of public transportation and eventually seeking out a job with Sound Transit.)

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