Sunday, February 22, 2009

Drive-thru to Drive Out Pollution

I dislike drive-thrus. No, I take that back. I HATE drive-thrus. Drive-thru restaurants are the worst. Five of the last six times I have been through a drive-thru the orders have had some sort of error. Between understanding the operator and giving requests that they can understand, to me, they are a pain.

Last summer, when gas hit $4 a gallon, Mrs. Sweeper would invariably insist that I cut off the engine while waiting at the drive-thru window and hopefully there would not be a long line ahead of us. Idling at a stop light is bad enough but in line at a drive-thru really irks her.

Lexington has seen some of the major fast food chains add a second drive thru menu board and order point in an effort to increase through put at their windows. But does that decrease the number of autos idling or the time of idling?

I have seen two articles in the past week from two separate cities regarding the growing awareness of car exhaust in urban areas. Arlington, Tx. and New York City are both starting to look at their situations and hopefully find solutions.

I found projects on the Mayor's Stimulus Wish List that will clean up the bus fleet and add technology for hybrid vehicles, but 10 buses and 4 trolleys is only a small dent in the problem in Lexington. What other steps can and WILL the Council take to start to whittle down our "carbon footprint"(one of the highest per capita in the nation)?

The small baby steps of the stimulus projects need to followed by bolder and larger steps. Two of our surrounding towns have considered allowing golf carts on local and collector street. The University has increased transit frequency to off campus student housing and reducing parking availability on campus. The Parking Authority has raised parking fees to discourage meter feeding and free up on street spaces(to, in theory, reduce the block circling and looking for a space).

Over the past 3 years, I have noticed a couple of government facilities which have built in generators (I imagine for emergency purposes) and generally once a week they run these diesel generators for a period of time. While running, they put out a great deal of fumes and particulate matter. Both locations discharge into locations which I would call dead air spaces and are associated with multi-storied parking structures. If the Council is concerned with air quality, then here is a project; to raise the exhaust point to the top of the parking structures or add scrubbers to the existing exhaust points.

I'm sure that a retrofit of or the replacement of the Transit Center would help an the matter of particulate and exhaust pollution, but I don't see that happening , even if the Stimulus projects are selected. What if we ran a pollution free Fourth of July parade this year? No cars, no trucks, no Shriners in their go carts, just everybody walking or marching (yes horses are still allowed) and the officials would still be in golf carts.

How many more oppertunities can you think of that should be frowarded to the Council?

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