Ready to Ride: Green Transportation Guide

We break down the various "green" options for you to get around town

Apr 13, 2009

Tired of the perpetually increasing parking and gas prices? What about that nagging voice in the back of your head telling you that your car produces just as many pounds of emissions as that rusty pickup truck driving past you on the highway?

Stop fighting your conscience and start believing your calculator. Green transportation makes sense, and Madison has enough options for you to get moving without emptying your pockets and increases your green quotient.

Ride Share

What is it? Servicing the southern two-thirds of Wisconsin and the far northern counties of Illinois, Rideshare, Etc. Online is a mass organized carpool. You can either match up with another person online and carpool in your own car, or you can take a van that has scheduled routes throughout the area.

Why it’s green: By carpooling, you may drive farther to pick up a passenger, but you will save on gas money and only one car will be on the road instead of two. That equals less traffic congestion and fewer emissions.

How Much? How much you pay is decided by the participants in the vehicle.

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Community Car

What is it? It’s ridesharing taken to the next level. Don’t just share the ride—share the entire car. At Community Car, you can pick up one of seventeen vehicles (Toyota Prius, Honda Civic, Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit, Mini Cooper convertible, Ford Ranger, or a Toyota Sienna) at one of the downtown Madison parking spots. All you have to do is call ahead or go online and reserve the car.

Sharing is caring: Just as if you were sharing a vehicle with family members or friends, you are expected to respect the other people driving the Community Car. That means no smoking or pets allowed (with the exception of the Ford Ranger) and of course, no leaving fast-food wrappers! You are expected to leave the tank at least a quarter full with gas when you return the car. Community Car stocks each vehicle with a gas card located in the glove compartment.

Why it’s green: Without a car right at your fingertips, you’ll find yourself streamlining and consolidating your errand trips. What makes it even sweeter? All of the cars have good gas mileage and fifty-three percent are hybrid gas-electric cars that average forty-five miles per gallon.

How Much? Community Car offers different plans to better suit your habits: prepaid plans and monthly or yearly plans. Receive one hundred free miles for each reservation and pay forty-eight cents for each extra mile. You don’t pay for gas, insurance or carwashes. There is a one-time application fee of $50.

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Madison Metro

What is it? If you’ve never taken the bus before, it can be intimidating; but it is worth your time and money to learn how to ride.

Why it's green: Madison Metro was the first public transit system in Wisconsin to add hybrid-electric powered buses to its fleet. The hybrid buses use a system called regenerative braking that stores the power created when a bus uses its brakes and converts it to stored electric energy. This means the hybrids get twenty to thirty percent better mileage than the other buses and reduce exhaust emissions by ninety percent. Aside from the braking system, Metro uses ultra-low sulfur diesel to reduce emissions by seventy-five percent. Even the administrative and maintenance facility buildings are partially powered by a combination of wind power and other green energy producing sources.

How Much? Adult fare is $2, seniors ride for $1 and youth for $1.25. Ride for the entire day for $4.50 or plan ahead and purchase a 10-ride card for $15 or a 31-day pass for $55.

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Mopeds and Scooters

What is it? A moped is a vehicle that is not capable of speeds greater than thirty MPH and has an engine that is 50 ccs or smaller.

Why it's greenWhile it’s debated whether these vehicles are better than cars when it comes to emissions, they definitely have better gas mileage. A four-stroke moped can get about seventy miles to the gallon; but a two-stroke moped puts out nearly as many emissions as a car. So stick with a four-stroke or consider an electric scooter.

Other Advantages: Trouble finding parking? No problem—some areas have special moped parking. And the sheer size of a scooter cuts down on traffic congestion. You can avoid paying for the rise in parking prices while enjoying your drive to and from work.

Good to know: Aside from having a driver’s license, you must register your moped and have a title. It is illegal to have a passenger on your moped, even if your moped has a passenger seat. All of the same rules of the road for a car apply when you are a driving a moped. There is no requirement for a helmet, though you are highly encouraged to wear one. Check with the DMV for more restrictions.

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What is it? Madison is already one of the best places for bicycling in America; in fact, it’s designated as a gold level biking community according to the League of American Bicyclists, an advocacy group that scores cities as bronze, silver, gold or platinum in bicycle friendliness. The Platinum Bicycling Committee of Madison is pushing for the city to become the model for bicycle friendly communities. That means there are networks of bike paths, bike lanes and bike-friendly businesses throughout the area to make your trip safer.

Why it’s green: Biking to work each day burns calories, saves money and helps the environment. An average person biking for one hour under ten miles per hour burns just under three hundred calories. That is 1,500 calories a week if you bike everyday to work!

How Much? Use the money you’ll save on gas to pick up a new or used bike at one of the many dealers around town, or check to recycle a used bike.

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