A Quest for Sustainable Transportation
One truly rewarding thing about Missoula is the active and engaged community our city fosters. At Climate Smart Missoula’s Monthly meetup focused on sustainable transportation and smart growth it was clear much of our community is engaged and ready to make our communal transportation system more sustainable! In a jammed packed room at Imagine Nation Brewery, community members put their active minds and bodies together in hopes of formulating ideas and initiatives which help people reduce their transportation footprint. Transportation is an exciting and essential sector to discuss as it accounts for nearly 37 percent of our communities total emission output.
Many community experts in the transportation sector attended the meetup, including Bill Pfeiffer, the community outreach coordinator at Mountain Line, Bob Giordano, director of Free Cycles and Chase Jones, Missoula’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Coordinator. Transportation and smart growth is multi-dimensional, involving aspects of personal contribution, education, funding and urban planning. These transportation experts helped lead the conversation through the different dimensions by engaging in a dialogue regarding upcoming initiatives that promote sustainable transportation and allow community members to make a personal impact.
Here’s some exciting opportunities and ways to get involved:
Director of Free Cycles and long-time bike advocate Bob Giordano has helped nearly 15,000 people gain access to a bicycle in Missoula. Bob and other transportation leaders in our community would like to shift the dynamic away from a car dominated transportation system towards a system that’s more inclusive of bikers and users of public transit. Bob admits that significant barriers remain for reducing single occupancy vehicles (SOVs), like accessibility to bike lanes and comfort level in a vehicle centered urban landscape. In order to help solve this issue, street design and policy change is needed. Bob was excited to discuss a proposed city council resolution regarding a 5th and 6th street bike lane change that would increase accessibility and safety for bicycles. He encouraged the group to contact their city council representatives and spread the word about the proposed bike lanes.
In addition to education and personal contribution, a transportation plan needs “smart growth” in order to meet long term GHG reduction goals. So what does smart growth mean? “Smart growth” refers to planning that promotes multiple route options and multiple transportation systems to increase efficiency and reduce congestion in a transportation system. A few exciting “smart growth” city planning projects were discussed at the meet up.
First, Missoulians have an opportunity to become directly involved in city planning through a project called Missoula Design Excellence. Essentially, the project seeks to define and “implement a system that will promote high quality commercial building development in terms of design, materials, construction and character.”
The design of new buildings in our community have implications on accessibility for bikers and users of public transit. In order to achieve a holistic plan, which meets the needs and wants of Missoula, the project needs community engagement. The public comment period is currently open, so make your voices heard! If you feel inclined, please Review the Draft Strategy Report and submit comments to by Friday, October 13th.
Another important aspect of “smart growth” was mentioned by Bill Pfeiffer, Mountain Line’s community outreach coordinator. Bill spoke about the ability to reduce single occupancy car dependence through increased accessibility to the public transportation system. Bill shared our community’s Long Range Transportation Goals . MPOs Long Range Transportation Plan Ambitious Mode Shift includes goals of 20,000 fewer drive along commute trips, reduction of drive along to 34 %, triple biking, walking and transit shares and provide a carpooling increase by 2045.
To achieve these goals, it will be important to provide multiple options of public transportation and come up with intriguing incentives for Missoulian’s to use them. Ultimately, says Bill, using our public transportation system “needs to be really easy”. Checkout the entire Long Range Transportation plan here:
With these goals in mind, our community is off to a great start, engaging in productive dialogue and brainstorming ways to build partnerships.
The room was still rolling, ready to solve issues and build partnerships when the 7:00 end time came around. The group decided to plan a follow up meeting which we encourage community members to attend. Time and date TBD – stay tuned. Let’s continue to advance Missoula’s quest for sustainable transportation and smart growth.
After the hustle and bustle of the holidays, the sudden arrival of the new year often sneaks up on me. The fully decorated Christmas tree still standing in my living room seems like a painful reminder of unfinished business. There never seems to be quite enough time! Are we ever really ready for a new year to begin?
Ready or not, 2017 is here. And we at Climate Smart Missoula are ready to dive back in and keep working towards the big picture we know is achievable when we all work together: a low-carbon, healthy, resilient community. We had a great group of folks join us to kick off our first Monthly Meetup of the year last night at INBC, focused on education and outreach and our community emissions inventory. These two things are connected pretty closely – and both are at the heart of why Climate Smart Missoula exists.
Educating our community about the nexus between climate change and lots of important issues (like water, energy, local food and more) is a big part of our work. We’ve got a website and facebook page with resources which we’re updating constantly, but we need your help coming up with more creative ways to do education and outreach. Send your fun and artistic ideas our way!
Last night we also shared some very preliminary insights from our forthcoming first-ever community emissions inventory: basically a carbon footprint for Missoula which breaks down where our emissions come from. Spoiler alert: transportation and home energy use are big. (We’re working on the full report – stay tuned...) Armed with data from our inventory, we can work strategically to shrink our community’s carbon footprint in ways that have a big impact. So, you might be wondering…what might that look like?
At our Meetup, our friends from Missoula in Motion joined us to share what they’re doing to promote sustainable transportation. MiM is one of the movers and shakers behind great community events like Walk and Roll Week, Sunday Streets, and Commuter Challenges. Their Way to Go Club is another way to encourage Missoulians to choose an alternative mode of transportation than driving alone in our cars. (This program is making some big changes soon that will make it even more accessible – learn more here!) In fact, our city’s new Long Range Transportation Plan will include an ambitious “mode split” goal of increasing the number of sustainable trips. Check out more information about the planning process here.
On the home energy side, we’ve got some big ideas – and we’d love your feedback! Our goal is to reduce residential energy use by 10%. That’s no small potatoes, but together we can do it, and we’re working on a program that’s designed to help you find ways to save energy. The idea is a community energy-saving challenge, where households sign up and commit to cutting their utility bills as much as possible, then compete with one another to earn rewards along the way and see who can make the biggest dent. There would also be an option to join a group (like your workplace, church, neighborhood, or favorite brewery) and compete against other groups for prizes. So…what do you think? Are you in? What incentives would entice you to participate, beyond saving money on your power bills? Let us know!
There’s so much more on the radar for 2017. Stay tuned, and keep in touch!
Sunday Streets Festivities
We were thrilled to be part of Sunday Streets Missoula yesterday! What could be a better way to celebrate community connections and promote healthy, active transportation? With Higgins Avenue closed to cars from 5th Street all the way to the XXXXs, Missoulians young and old came out to walk, bike, skate, scooter, and dance along the downtown corridor. Climate Smart Missoula was there to share tips on how to be Summer Smart, and provide a fun, refreshing cool-down with our DIY sprinkler! (Plenty of ideas out there for how to build your own - try Googling “DIY PVC kids sprinkler/mister”.) Check out some of our favorite photos below.
We loved seeing kids and adults alike having fun with water. It’s an easy (and cheap) way to stay cool when the heat rolls in! As much as we know the importance of water conservation, using some water can be a good thing – not just for us, but for our trees, too. When it gets hot and dry out, it’s ok to neglect your lawn (brown is the new green!) but don’t forget to water your trees! They shade our homes and streets and help make our whole city cooler and healthier.
Interested in continuing the conversation about water? Maybe you’ve tried to cool down by jumping in the river, and wondered about all the green algae. Join us for our next monthly meetup, Thursday, August 4th from 5-7pm at Imagine Nation Brewing Company. Folks from the Clark Fork Coalition will be on hand to chat about water quality and conservation in our changing climate. We provide snacks, INBC has delicious beer on tap - all are welcome!
Did you know that the transportation sector is responsible for over 25% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States? And more than half of those emissions come from passenger vehicles! That’s the bad news. Building a climate smart community has to include sustainable transportation that is affordable and accessible to everyone.
The good news is that the wheels are turning here in Missoula and there is healthy movement happening – quite literally! At our July monthly meet-up last night at Imagine Nation Brewing Company, we were joined by advocates of sustainable transportation, including Jim Sayer, CEO of Adventure Cycling, Lisa Dworak with Missoula in Motion, and Caitlin and Julia, Missoula’s Bike Ambassadors, who shared their insights and ideas about how to keep momentum going. Here are just a few of our takeaways from the conversation. We’d love to hear your thoughts!
Bicycle Boulevards and Barriers
Missoula has been praised for being a bike-friendly community; among other accolades, the Travel Channel recently ranked Missoula among the top ten cycling cities in the U.S.! But biking isn’t just a popular pastime - for many Missoulians, their bike is the primary way to get around town. According to one survey, about 6 percent of us are bike commuters, good enough to earn us a rank of 11 out of US cities over 65,000 people. And we’ve got great organizations like Freecycles, Women Bike Missoula and Bike Walk Alliance Missoula - BWAM getting more bikers out riding.
These are great accomplishments, but we can do even better! 70% of Missoulians still drive solo to work. Initiatives like Missoula In Motion’s Commuter Challenge prove it’s possible for more of us to bike, walk, bus, or carpool instead: during the most recent challenge, the number of people commuting by car every day dropped from 40% to 11%!
Bike Ambassadors Caitlin and Julia reminded us that perceptions about safety are often the biggest barriers preventing more people from hopping on a bike. Group rides like Bikeapalooza (Sunday July 17th – meet downtown at 12pm!) are a great way to build bikers’ confidence and learn more about city bike routes. And when people get on a bike, they are more likely to be a bike-aware driver when they get behind the wheel of their cars. You might say it’s a positive cycle of safety!
Transit: Smart Growth, Focus Inward
Biking is great, but it’s not for everyone. And in the middle of winter, even the most dedicated bikers (and walkers!) can be deterred by snow and slush. We’re thrilled that Mountain Line’s zero-fare bus service has been so popular, and the new 15-minute frequent service on lines 1 and 2 is super convenient. We’d love to see expanded hours and Sunday service – maybe someday! In the meantime, the Our Missoula Growth Plan’s focus inward is a great start to planning more centralized development and better integrating transit into our neighborhoods, which will help make sustainable transportation more accessible for everyone.
Join us in Being a Sustainable Transportation Advocate!
Here at Climate Smart Missoula, we try to walk the walk. We’re proud to have won Missoula In Motion’s Transportation Best Practices Award for our commitment as an organization to sustainable transportation!
Do you bike, walk, or take the bus? Do you wish it was even easier to do all three? Your voice matters to our community, and there are lots of ways to get involved!