What is alternative transportation and why should you do it?

Simply put, alternative transportation is any form of transportation that is not a private automobile. Alternative modes of transportation are less harmful to our planet, reduce traffic, and ease parking shortages. Since most cars and trucks require a fuel source such as gas or diesel, alternative modes of transportation such as biking or carpooling reduce our consumption of fossil fuels. In honor of Smart Commute Month here in Traverse city, we put together some information for you regarding the importance of alternative modes of transportation. Also, apart of our #GreenerYearChallenge, we challenge you to incorporate alternative transportation into your lifestyle!

Just Think About It

There are a number of reasons why you should consider introducing alternative transportation methods into your life. In this article, we are going to focus on three main reasons: environmental impacts, healthier lifestyle, and reduced costs.

Environmental Impacts

vehicle emissions leaving a car exhaust

According to National Geographic, vehicles are America’s biggest air quality compromises, producing about one third of all U.S. air pollution. Vehicle emissions produced by cars, trucks, and buses emit exhaust and several air pollutants that can be harmful to both our bodies and the environment. and they continue to rise and affect our atmosphere as well. The primary air pollutants released by vehicle emissions are carbon and nitrogen oxides. These pollutants impact our atmosphere and human health.

Studies by the American Lung Association report that particulate matter from car emissions is responsible for 30,000 premature deaths per year people in the U.S. alone. This number is expected to continue to rise along with the current rate of new drivers. Although the Environmental Protection Agency has made an effort to reduce emissions of vehicles with system checks and there is much conversation around alternative fuel sources, -there is still a need for further conversation and action to be taken.

Healthier Lifestyle


man walking a trail outside

Most alternative modes of transportation require a little more effort and activity then hopping in your car a your home and driving directly to your destination. For example, you may choose to bike to work combining your commute with your daily calorie burn. Or you may walk to dinner rather than taking a cab. That one simply tweak may turn into a habit and make a measurable impact on both your physical and mental health overtime.

Smart commuting is associated with better mental health, greater visibility, lower self-perceived stress and fewer feelings of loneliness according to a 2018 study by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health that focused on cycling communities. Another study found that smart commuting made employees more productive and positive at work. Long commutes have been assoicated with everything from high blood pressure and headaches to burnout and stress. Do yourself a favor and try a more active commute! It may have countless positive ripple effects on your health.

Reduced Costs


young couple putting money in the piggy bank


Although it may require more time to reach your destination, an alternative transportation method may saves you gas money and reduces the cost of car maintenance.  According to AAA, owning and operating an average sedan costs nearly $8,558 per year. There is no question that the cost of regular maintenance and gasoline for your vehicle add up. If this sparks your interest in finding an alternative mode of transportation in 2019, we’ve got you covered. Below you will find some eco-friendly transportation methods to use for your local commute!

Top Alternative Transportation Modes For Your Local Commute in 2019

These eco-friendly transportation methods are the most practical smart commute methods for 2019.  Specifically, we considered your local commute to work, school, or other function and what will suit you best. Please consider making alternative transportation part of your commuting plan. Even just one day per week or month can make a difference for our planet, your health, and your wallet. Plus, you may inspire your friends and family to join you

1. Biking/Cycling


Mother and daughter riding bike on sidewalk

Biking is a great alternative transportation, especially for your local commute! It is much faster than walking and many cities have bike-friendly infrastructure such as bike lanes, trails, and racks. Also, cycling has a number of health benefits that can greatly increase  your quality of life. If you’re interested in seeing just how biking can affect your health and the environment check out the 101 Benefits of Cycling That Will Make You Love It More

2021 UPDATE: We received a letter from a local mother who’s daughter is a girl scout. She is currently working on her Eco Trekker Badge as part of the Environmental Stewardship series for her troop. Jenny has been learning all the ways in which she can minimize her carbon footprint, and she has focused on cycling as a form of commuting. Jenny and her girl scout troop are on their way to saving the world, one amazing idea at a time!

Here is a link to the resourceful website Jenny has found to help spread the word about reducing your carbon footprint and making subtle changes to your lifestyle to help the environment! Thank you for your support and hard work Jenny!

2. Walking


3 people walking in the city

If you live close enough to your destination, why not try walking? Although it may be a slower alternative than other options, it may just be the change of pace you need to take a pause. Creating a routine out of it will almost certainly deliver benefits to your life. More and more communities are being redesigned to increase walk-ability. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation in partnership with the Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Project, walking trips have increased by 16% over a 5 year span.



3. Electric City Scooter / Electric Scooter


electric scooter in the city sidewalk

Electric scooters are increasing popular addition to cities. Although they can be controversial because they take up sidewalk space and flood streets, they are an inexpensive  and eco-friendly way to get around town. The electric scooters are definitely an innovative and fun approach to weaning off fossil fuels. If your city doesn’t have scooters yet, keep your eye out. They may be on their way.


4. Carpooling


Group of 3 carpooling on their way to work

The classic carpooling is still a great way to reduce the number of cars on the road and get to your destination. When three people carpool two cars are eliminated from the road. That may not seem like much, but its impactful when 10, 50, or 100 people also had the same idea! Talk with co-workers, friends, and family to see if you can organize weekly car pooling arrangements. Sometimes it may not always fit your schedule but when it does why not carpool?


5. Hybrid and Electric Vehicles


electric vehicle being charged

This is a larger investment than hopping on your bike or scooter but if you’re in the market for a new vehicle, consider purchasing a hybrid or completely electric vehicle. Over the years these cars have been engineered to  perform as well as gas vehicles. A hybrid vehicle combines the use of electric and gas to move the car. Overall a hybrid vehicle doesn’t burn as much fuel and releases less vehicle emissions.  There is also more development in the creation of completely electric vehicles. Although they are still quite pricey, it’s good to see the gaining traction. It’s exciting to imagine a day that we don’t have to rely on fossil fuels for transportation.


SMART Commute Week Traverse City


smart commute week june3-7

If you are a Traverse City, Michigan local, please consider supporting SMART Commute Week.  We have a great organization dedicated to creating a cleaner, reliable, and smarter way to commute. The TART Trails are committed by providing recreation and transportation opportunities through preserving open space corridors, building trails and advocating for active living and outdoor recreation. We are very fortunate to have an organization such as TART Trails within our community. Every year during the first week of June they have a Smart Commute Week celebration, The celebration includes events that promote cycling, walking, taking the bus and other smart alternative transportation methods.  Find out more about this great event here!