One theme we touched on several times throughout our conversation was the intersection of sustainable transportation and health. Beyond the seemingly obvious connection that the physical activity of walking and biking is good for you, fuel emissions from vehicles have a large and negative effect on our air quality. Because of how inversions affect Missoula, vehicle emissions, especially during the winter time, have a significant effect on the city’s air pollution, and consequently community health.
That is why Mountain Line’s unveiling of its six soon-to-be new electric buses is exciting on many levels. Not only do these buses represent the city transitioning away from carbon-dependent transportation, a necessity for electrifying our grid and transitioning off fossil fuels, but the shift will also positively affect air quality by 1) those buses not contributing emissions, and 2) a thriving public transportation infrastructure encouraging more ridership and subsequently less people to be driving their cars-- how good can it get? We celebrated these transitions at our meetup, and discussed other ways to make both the Mountain Line and UDASH bus systems more efficient.
Our meetups provide awesome opportunities for collaboration with local organizations already fully invested in the work of each climate action plan “bucket” that Climate Smart is committed to advocating for. We were joined this month by one such group, Missoula in Motion, a program of the City of Missoula’s Transportation Division that encourages and educates Missoulians about sustainable transportation. After leading us in a rousing round of sustainable transportation “speed dating” (tis the season, what can we say?), they told us about their many initiatives and how to get involved, especially their Way To Go! Missoula program. By using their Way To Go trip planner, you can find all the ways you can get where you need to be by using sustainable transit. For each transportation method, it will even tell you how many calories you burn and the pounds of CO2 you save from being emitted--how cool is that? On top of all that, you can log those sustainable trips on their website and receive awards to different local businesses each month for free or discounted food, vouchers, and gifts. I’m still dreaming about the incredible free Chai latte I got from Lake Missoula Tea Company last month! Check it all out.
Finally, we rounded out the night with some updates from Bob Giordano, the director of MIST (Missoula Institute for Sustainable Transportation). MIST is committed to developing infrastructure in Missoula that makes sustainable transportation options safe, accessible, and equitable. We heard some awesome statistics from him about roundabouts (or traffic circles..whatever you call them) that are too cool not to share. We learned that a well-designed roundabout can lead to a 65% decrease in idling and 95% fewer crashes at that intersection, let alone the electricity that is saved from not needing stoplights! Personally, I’ve never been more interested in roundabouts than after our conversation.
In addition, Bob alerted us to an action item: the Higgins Avenue Bridge Rehabilitation. Wouldn’t it be great to actually walk side-by-side with someone on that walkway? What a dream. The city has been working away to come up with a rehabilitation plan of the bridge, and they have proposed designs. Check it all out here, and please take a moment to leave a comment on the project here. Public comments are truly read and considered in these processes, and are an excellent opportunity for direct action! We’re urging the city to keep bike and walk lanes wide, and cut down to two lanes of traffic, or at least maintain the bridge to be able to be retrofitted in the future through this process as our city continues to grow and develop in new ways.
That’s all for now! Stay warm out there, fellow Missoulians--you’ll see me walking to work bundled up in a giant scarf this month, racking up those Missoula in Motion points: free latte at Clyde Coffee, I’m coming for you.