Alternative Transportation: For Personal Health, Savings and the Environment

By Nicholas Coates and Joan Clinton

We are fortunate to live in New Hampshire, a state with many beautiful features and a relatively low population density. The downside is fewer transit options and residents frequently needing to drive significant distances to get to work and other places.

As many as 70 percent of us drive to work alone. A person who carpools can save money and reduce their carbon footprint as well. By walking or bicycling to work or wherever we need to go, we receive health benefits from the exercise, save money and benefit the environment.

The Central New Hampshire Regional Planning Commission’s (CNHRPC) Program for Alternative Transportation and Health (PATH) conducted a user survey at Park and Ride lots around the Concord area last summer. Most people said their decision was based on the tough economy and the need to find ways to save money whenever and however possible. Although historically high gas prices have subsided, the number of people carpooling to work and for recreation has remained steady in the last year. The CNHRPC’s twice-monthly vehicle counts at Park and Ride lots have remained steady over the last year—even as gas prices have dropped. How is that possible? 

Carpoolers report other reasons in addition to saving money. Last year, PATH staff received an e-mail from an organizer of a carpool of healthcare workers. The organizer said the four people in her carpool look forward to their carpool everyday as “our therapy to get through the days!”

Municipalities play a part in this puzzle and can do small and large things to improve transportation for residents and employees. Some municipalities throughout the state have worked in the past with the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (DOT) to build and expand Park and Ride lots in their communities. The lots with intercity bus service have experienced the most use.

Other communities in the CNHRPC region, for example, recently applied for federal stimulus funding to develop or expand Park and Ride lots. These municipalities are working to bring additional services to the lots like free Wi-Fi, intercity and local bus service and simple things like commuter information stations.

The CNHRPC region also has several communities with robust Safe Routes to School programs that work with children and parents to make walking and bicycling to school safer. Safe Routes to School assists communities by reimbursing them 100 percent for eligible and approved costs that focus on rebalancing local transportation systems.

Here are additional things municipalities can do:

  • Place the New Hampshire Rideshare and local transportation management association links on the municipal website.
  • Work with the local transportation management associations and New Hampshire Rideshare to engage local businesses to support their employees with preferred parking for carpoolers, bike racks and other incentive programs.
  • Plan transportation options for people who cannot or do not drive when going through the community master plan process, and seek out funding sources to implement these options.
  • Revamp land use chapters of master plans to allow transit- oriented developments.
  • Consider requiring pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly site designs for new commercial buildings or establish a policy that calls for consideration of such facilities.
  • Consider requiring pedestrian and bicycle facilities, when safe and appropriate, for road reconstruction projects, or establish a policy that calls for consideration of such facilities in the future.
  • Establish a Safe Routes to School program, which can start to establish safe transportation options for parents and children and help increase/improve pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure.
  • Consider applying for transportation enhancement funding that is available to municipalities for improving mobility, protection of the environment, community preservation, sustainability and livability.

Additional Transportation Information

Nicholas Coates is a regional planner and Rideshare coordinator for CNHRPC. He can be reached by phone at 603.226.6020 or by e-mail at ncoates@cnhrpc.org
 
Joan Clinton is the New Hampshire Rideshare coordinator with the New Hampshire Department of Transportation Bureau of Rail and Transit. For more information on making New Hampshire Rideshare available to your employees, she can be reached by phone at 603.271.4043 or by e-mail at jclinton@dot.state.nh.us. 

Web Resources

Program for Alternative Transportation and Health (PATH)
New Hampshire Rideshare
New Hampshire Safe Routes to School
New Hampshire Regional Planning Commissions