A glimmer of hope at the gas pump

by Tab Townsell ([email protected]) 919 views 

In the throes of a record-breaking heatwave and uncharacteristically high gas prices, Arkansans might be looking for reasons to ditch the keys, cancel summer plans and stay home. But despite the negative effects on our wallets, these changes might benefit the environment and the air you breathe.

When it is hot outside, and you turn the ignition in your car or truck, you’re jumpstarting a process that might cause chest pains and coughs that impact our region’s most susceptible population. The moment you start your vehicle, its emissions cook in the sunlight through a chemical process that creates ground-level ozone. Ozone can affect your health and especially the health of those suffering from asthma, emphysema and other diseases. Because the problem peaks during the hot summer months, the Little Rock metro area has a program called Ozone Action Days, which aims to voluntarily reduce our emissions.

So, Metroplan is encouraging you to ditch the keys for Ozone Action Days this summer.

If you want to help, you can do several things. The first is to drive less.

Could you get there by bike? Could you walk? Central Arkansans have access to a diverse network of trails and pedestrian bridges, allowing many to ditch the keys and opt for biking or walking. In fact, Metroplan is currently working with regional cities to expand the regional trail network with our Regional Greenways Initiative, which will increase the number and quality of trails in the future.

Too hot to hit the pavement? Take the bus! Rock Region METRO provides more than 1.5 million passenger trips each year and offers a convenient and free app, affordable fares and 15 fixed routes throughout Pulaski County.

My plea is for you to look at the tank half full and make changes to how you use fuel today. We urge Central Arkansas residents to consider carpooling or taking public transit in addition to biking and walking. These choices are convenient and affordable and, by reducing your time in the car, will help us all breathe a little easier.

If ditching the keys seems unattainable, you may adopt other voluntary measures to help. Like fueling up your vehicle in the early morning or evening after peak-driving time. Or mow your yard in the evening when emissions are less severe. Replace your gasoline mower with a battery mower, as these are lighter, quieter and barely more expensive. You can find this and more information at metroplan.org.

Editor’s note: Tab Townsell is the executive director of Metroplan, an association of local governments that serves as a regional voice on issues affecting Central Arkansas, develops transportation plans required by federal law and convenes stakeholders to deal with common environmental issues for its members in Pulaski, Faulkner, Saline, Lonoke and Grant counties. The views expressed are those of the author.