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July 22, 2009 > Spare the air every day

Spare the air every day

Submitted By Kristine Roselius and Mollie Petersen

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the regional agency chartered with protecting air quality in the Bay Area, launched a new effort on July 7 for the Spare the Air campaign encouraging the public to carpool or rideshare to reduce the number of single-occupancy vehicles on our highways.

Transportation is the largest source of smog pollution in the Bay Area and the region's highway congestion is the second-worst in the nation.

"We must reduce the number of single-occupancy vehicles if we're to reduce air pollution," said Lisa Fasano, Air District Communications Director. "Any ride is worth sharing. Even once a week would dramatically reduce the number of cars on the road, reduce time spent commuting, reduce money spent on gas and reduce bad air in our lungs."

Every day, Bay Area commuters drive alone on more than 3.5 million trips. Ridesharing can dramatically reduce the number of single-occupancy vehicle trips and improve air quality. Spare the Air encourages everyone to do their part to maintain healthy air in the Bay Area by sharing a ride instead of commuting alone.

The campaign's goal is to reduce the number of single-occupancy vehicles on the road and educate the public about the benefit of ridesharing and the resources available.

With ride sharing, less is more

During peak commuting hours, only 17% of vehicles on Bay Area roads are eligible to use HOV lanes. This year's Spare the Air campaign aims to increase the use of HOV lanes.

On the Bay Bridge Toll Plaza, the HOV lane saves each vehicle an average of 20 minutes. Carpoolers can save anywhere from 5-20 minutes by carpooling across other Bay Area bridges.

Given a 30-mile roundtrip commute, the average commuter will save about $222 a month, or $2,663 annually (based on a car that achieves 20 mpg, at $3 per gallon).

Carpool riders can read the paper, check email on their handheld device or simply relax on their commute to work.

During the summer months, ground-level ozone is the pollutant that creates smog. Cars and trucks are the largest source of smog pollution in the Bay Area, so reducing the number of single-occupancy vehicles is healthier for us all.

How to Spare the Air

There are many ridesharing and carpool programs. Join an organized rideshare using the free 511 RideMatch Service through Commuters can view ride options available for their schedules and follow a few easy steps to connect with other commuters and share a ride.

Another option on 511 RideMatch Service is vanpooling through Go to to view a map of more than 150 free Park & Ride lots to locate a rideshare and find available seats in existing vanpools. Alternatively, start a new vanpool instead of driving or riding alone.

East Bay residents can also use the Casual Carpool network. "Casual carpools" or "ad hoc carpools" are informal carpools that form when drivers and passengers meet - without specific prior arrangement - at designated locations. The East Bay has more than 20 locations listed on Drivers drop off passengers at Fremont and Howard Streets near the Transbay Terminal in downtown San Francisco.

Car ownership isn't required to rideshare; it is also possible to spare the air as a passenger. Options exist to fit any schedule and comfort levels. If commuters cannot rideshare daily, the Spare the Air campaign encourages people to try just once or twice a week and enjoy the benefits of a smarter commute while helping protect the Bay Area's air quality.

Visit for a quick video tutorial on the ridesharing and carpool programs mentioned above.

For more information, visit Sign up for email AirAlerts through the EnviroFlash system at for Spare the Air Day notifications and/or daily air pollution forecasts.

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