ALTERNATIVES IN TRANSPORTATION
Transportation and the Environment
Did you know that transportation accounts for one third of all CO2 emissions in the United States?* Automobiles and light trucks generate over half of that, meaning that changing our personal transportation habits can significantly affect our carbon footprint. Here is some information regarding other options to get around.
* Source: Shrinking the Carbon Footprint of Metropolitan America, Brookings Institute, May 2008
Bicycling is a great way to get around. It’s fun, great exercise, low-cost, and environmentally friendly. Whether you are looking for recreation or running errands, Santa Clara County has a vast network of bike paths for your use. Check out the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority’s Interactive VTA Bikeways Map to view bike lanes in the county; click on the "Zoom In/Zoom Out" icon and North/South/East/West arrow keys to find the details you need for your route. Then get that cycle out and start biking!
2. Public Transportation
Looking to learn more about public transit in the Bay Area? Close to home, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority operates an extensive network of bus and light rail transportation, connecting Los Altos with destinations across Santa Clara Valley and beyond. And within Los Altos, bus routes run the full length of San Antonio Road, El Monte Road, and El Camino Real. Go to www.vta.org for route maps, trip planning tools, scheduling, fare, and connection information.
CalTrain runs up and down the Peninsula, between San Francisco and San Jose. Go to www.caltrain.com for downloadable schedules and fare information. Click on "System Map" to see the entire CalTrain route. Want to get from your house to the San Francisco airport and not pay daily parking fees? Click on the "Trip Planner" link on the above page, and then again on "Trip Planning" to have the system give you directions from your house. You can also find links to schedules and route maps for rail, bus, ferry, shuttle, and other mass transit options here.
3. Hybrids, Plug-In Hybrids, Electric, and Alternative Fuel Vehicles
If you’re in the market for a new car, take the time to explore and test-drive some of the high-efficiency vehicles now on the market. There are a lot of new and exciting products — in the showroom now, and on the way.
The Bay Area has emerged as one of the top markets in the country for hybrid vehicles. While Toyota made the term hybrid famous, most manufacturers now offer several hybrid gas/electric models, spanning small compact cars to SUVs. Hybrids offer significantly improved gas mileage, especially in "city" driving, where stops and starts are common.
Plug In Hybrids, known as PHEVs (for example, the Chevy Volt) and full Electric Vehicles, known as EVs (for example the Nissan Leaf, Tesla) are now in the market. Both PHEVs and EVs offer high mileage ratings. Some Los Altos residents have installed solar panels on their homes so that they can generate additional electricity to help charge their PHEVs or EVs — in effect, making their cars "sun-powered"!
Many manufacturers are now introducing clean diesel models, which boast improved mileage ratings versus conventional gasoline-powered models. Some manufacturers, such as Honda, are marketing compressed natural gas (CNG) models, which have very low emissions ratings. Ethanol and biodiesel are also on the market, though used primarily as a fuel component in traditional gasoline and diesel-fueled vehicles.
Understanding the relative "fuel economy" of Hybrids, PHeVs, EVs and alternative fuel vehicles can be challenging — especially when both liquid fuels and electricity are involved. The US Department of Energy is working on this, and offers an excellent resource for information on vehicle fuel economy and side-by-side model comparisons, at www.fueleconomy.gov/.