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Green miles to go

Where we’ve been, where we are and why so many are now taking the road less traveled into the future.

By Jennifer Hadley 04/15/2010

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Where we’ve been
It’s been nearly 18 months since we voted in favor of Measure R, one of the largest transportation measures in memory. By agreeing to the half-cent sales tax increase for the next 30 years, together we put our faith in the hope that one day we’d see less congestion on our freeways. If our hopes come to fruition, not only would we see a reduction in congestion, but we’d also reduce our carbon footprint, making projects funded by Measure R a win-win for us as individuals, and for our Mother Earth. In 2010, it appears that the gamble we took is indeed about to pay off. 
 
Of course, Measure R wasn’t without opponents, particularly Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard, whose chief fear was that residents of the San Gabriel Valley — particularly Pasadenans —wouldn’t reap benefits commensurate with the tax dollars we supplied. However, as the June groundbreaking of the Gold Line Foothill Extension looms closer, Bogaard has found himself pleasantly surprised with the progress being made on projects funded by Measure R. 
 
“Measure R is working for the San Gabriel Valley and for light rails. I had reservations about the way it was formulated,” said the mayor. “A lot of questions were raised. But there is no question that the 12 miles of the Foothill Extension will be a significant environmental contributor to Southern California.” Specifically, he notes that the extension of the Gold Line toward Azusa will “relieve heavy traffic in East Pasadena and provide traffic relief on the 210 freeway.” 
 
Pasadena’s Director of Transportation, Fred Dock, echoes Bogaard’s sentiments, stating that the extension will provide more viable and “sustainable options for employees who commute into Pasadena from the east.” 
 
Green City Coordinator Alice Sterling couldn’t agree more. “I anticipate the Gold Line toward Azusa will have a long-term positive impact on the environment and support sustainability for the region,” Sterling said. “It certainly is in alignment with successful urban areas in Europe where extensive public transportation has been in place for decades.”    

Where we are
Unfortunately, the expected completion of the Gold Line extension is years away. Seven, to be exact. 
 
So we still have a while before any traffic relief will really be felt. However, that doesn’t mean that we should stop looking for alternative methods of getting around and cutting pollution.
 
When asked what individuals can do between now and then to reduce their personal carbon footprint, Sterling offered several solutions. 
 
“The options are vast and include such simple actions as bundling your errands so that you avoid making individual trips in your car each and every time you need to do something,” she explained. “It means investigating alternative modes of travel, such as taking the Gold Line to Chinatown instead of driving.”
 
To further illustrate, “Recently on the Gold Line, I saw a gentleman with a battery-operated bicycle, which allowed him to travel to his final destination quickly and efficiently once he got off the train,” Sterling said.
 
Certainly, bicycle paths abound in Pasadena, and with biking rather than driving being a far more eco-friendly way of getting around, both Dock and Sterling vow to continue working in the interest of cyclists and pedestrians in ensuring that Pasadena is navigable without a car. Buses are also a great way to avoid creating unnecessary pollution, and although bus fares are set to increase this summer, neither Bogaard nor Dock has heard much complaining about the price increases. Moreover, to date, it doesn’t look like the elimination of some bus routes throughout Southern California — as part of a way to combat deficit — will have much impact in Pasadena, according to Dock.  
 
For those of us who will still need to rely on a car, a slew of new and electric cars are entering the market, despite the fall from grace that the Toyota Prius has felt of late. Even better, both state and federal governments are offering huge incentives to buyers who purchase these vehicles. Take the new all-electric, zero-emission 2011 Nissan Leaf, for example. This little number qualifies for both a federal tax credit of $7,500, and a $5,000 rebate from the state. Moreover, Leafs will be eligible for use in carpool lanes. Buyers can begin reserving Leafs on April 20 with a deposit of $99. 
 
For the eco-friendly but must-buy-American consumer, the Chevy Volt is another option that will first be made available in California later this year. This plug-in hybrid vehicle is also eligible for the federal tax credit of $7,500 and the California rebate.
If these little compact cars just aren’t tickling your fancy and you want something a little sportier, well, there is the electric Tesla Roadster, which will also be eligible for both tax incentives. But, you’re still going to need an extra $100,000 in order to call one of these eco-friendly hot rods your own.  

Where we’re going
Clearly, we’re moving in the right direction, assuming that direction is the road less traveled in our personal cars. We have far more options for hybrids than ever before. We’ll be laying new tracks for additional rail lines in just weeks. And there may just be a sweet surprise in store for Old Pasadena. Bogaard said that within about 60 days a study will conclude on the “preliminary economic feasibility of implementing a streetcar system” right here in Pasadena. While he adds that this will be mostly contingent upon the city’s ability to pursue this option through federal grants and local assessments, he sounds hopeful about the future. Of course, property owners in the area of the system will have to be consulted. But what fun to think about, right? 
 
Imagine being able to park on South Fair Oaks Avenue, meander through Old Pasadena and catch the streetcar to South Lake for more shopping. The reduction in aggravation of having to park in one area, shop and then move to another parking space (for those not inclined to walk) tickles me pink. That’s to say nothing of the emissions we’d be reducing in our city.
 
Of course, with any new proposal, there are many things we’ll have to consider. But both Bogaard and Sterling are committed to seeing the already green movement in Pasadena continue gaining steam. For his part, Bogaard reiterated that he supports “subsidizing new technology in the area of sustainability,” as does Sterling.
 
“With the community’s input, our transportation department has been developing a full range of exciting and progressive transportation options, from road diets to citywide electrical vehicle charging stations, each of which is an important step in building a sustainable transportation staircase,” Sterling said.
Works for me.  I always take the stairs. 

Contact Jennifer Hadley at jmhadley624@yahoo.com.

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