Iowa Rideshare program to cut costs and emissions

Iowa Rideshare allows users to match with other commuters using various modes of transportation. (Iowa Rideshare)
Jenna Ladd | October 27, 2016

Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) recently launched a statewide rideshare program.

Iowa DOT partnered with several agencies to consolidate existing rideshare programs across the state into one state-of-the art system. Among those agencies are Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority, Metropolitan Area Planning Agency, East Central Iowa Council of Governments, and the University of Iowa. University of Iowa (UI) staff, students, and faculty can login to the system using their HawkID and password in order to be matched with other commuters on similar transportation routes. Iowa Rideshare has the capacity to detect matches for carpooling, biking, public transit, and walking, and officials say it has the potential to cut travel costs in half for users.

According to a survey done in 2012, a little more than half of UI employees drive to work alone, and 57 percent of commuters in the Iowa City area do the same. UI Parking and Transportation professionals say that Iowa City is among the most congested urban areas in Iowa, despite the fact that the state ranks seventh for shortest commute distance. Additionally, solo commutes by car can add up over time. Depending on the vehicle type and driving style, the Iowa DOT says that driving a car can cost between 60 cents and $1.20 per mile. After tacking on parking costs, which range from $27 to $110 per month, a person commuting just ten miles to work could pay an additional $555 to $1,500 per year in transportation costs. Consistently commuting alone by car has environmental impacts as well. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, about 19.64 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) are emitted per gallon of gasoline burned by automobile. The administration estimates that burning motor gasoline resulted in about 1,105 million metric tons of CO2 emissions in 2015.

Michelle Ribble is the commuter programs manager for the UI Office of Parking and Transportation. She said, “The UI is an extremely busy place and parking infrastructure is expensive. Each person using UI RideShare reduces pollution and frees resources that can more directly benefit everyone.”

The system, designed by a company called Rideshark, allows users to calculate miles traveled, emissions curbed, and money saved. Iowa DOT partnered with institutions like the UI to launch the rideshare program in each of Iowa’s 99 counties. A link to sign up for Iowa Rideshare in the Corridor area can be found here, or check out CorridorRide’s Facebook page to get news and updates about the service.

On The Radio – Central U.S. states unite to protect pollinators

(Matina Donaldson-Matasi/Flickr)
Jenna Ladd | June 27, 2016

This week’s On The Radio segment discusses a memorandum to protect and revive pollinator habitat that was signed by five U.S. states last month. 

Transcript: Iowa Department of Transportation joins regional effort to protect pollinators

The Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) and transportation departments in five other states have joined forces to improve pollinator habitat along Interstate 35.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Supported by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), transportation officials from Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Texas met last month in Des Moines to sign a memorandum of understanding. The memo asks that states work together to promote habitat conservation and renewal for monarch butterflies, honeybees and other pollinators along Interstate 35. The interstate, otherwise known as “the Monarch Highway,” is the primary route that Monarchs take between Mexico and Canada.

Mark Masteller, Chief Landscape Architect for the Iowa DOT, led the Interstate 35 initiative.

Masteller: “This memorandum provides additional support for the Iowa DOT’s practice of seeding native grasses and wildflowers in the highway rights of way. In addition to benefiting pollinators, these native species provide improved erosion control and improved control of blowing and drifting snow for the highway user.”

A 2014 memo by the Obama Administration declared that pollinators are vital to the United States’ economy, food security, and environmental health. Quantified, honey bees alone add upwards of $15 million dollars to agricultural crops every year.

For more information about these five states’ efforts to protect pollinators, visit Iowa-Environmental-Focus-dot-org.

From the University of Iowa Center for Global and Environmental Research, I’m Nick Fetty.

Train derailment near Dubuque spills ethanol into Mississippi River

...(Jeff Dzadon/Flickr)
A train bridge that crosses the Mississippi River near Dubuque, Iowa. (Jeff Dzadon/Flickr)

Nick Fetty | February 6, 2015

A train derailed Wednesday causing ethanol to be spilled on half an acre of land and one acre of ice on the Mississippi River, according to the Dubuque Telegraph Herald.

The 81-car train was traveling eastbound about 10 miles north of Dubuque when the derailment occurred around 11:30 a.m. Fourteen of the 15 cars that derailed contained ethanol and three of the cars started on fire. An additional three cars fell into the river which was covered with ice. No injuries were reported. The steep terrain made it difficult for clean up crews to reach crash site in rural Dubuque County.

When ethanol mixes with water in high concentration it can deplete oxygen levels and lead to fish kills. Rescue crews are attempting to thaw the ice where the ethanol spilled in order to remove any environmental threats. The Department of Natural Resources plans on testing the water near to spill to ensure the safety of the aquatic wildlife in the area.

A spokesman with Canadian Pacific said DOT-111’s were the model of cars involved in the crash though he could not comment on exactly how many of the cars were the DOT-111 model. Critics have said the DOT-111 models are prone to puncturing and have been involved in other crashes and spills around the country. DOT-111’s are known to make up approximately 70 percent of the fleet in train cars in the United States.  The U.S. Department of Transportation proposed a two-year phase out of the DOT-111’s last July.

On the Radio: Fueling Our Future

Photo by UnitedSoybeanBoard; Flickr

This week’s On the Radio segment covers the new biofuels program recently announced by the governor. Listen to the audio below or continue reading for the transcript.

Continue reading

Fewer Iowans volunteer for roadside clean up

Photo by adamhgs, Flickr.

The number of people adopting Iowa’s roadsides has decreased, causing an increase in litter removal costs for the Department of Transportation.

Rural stretches of roadside in particular have seen a significant decline in volunteer numbers.

Over the past six years, the Department of Transportation has increased their litter removal costs by 53 percent, partially because of the decrease in volunteers.

Read the Press-Citizen’s article on this issue here. The article also contains information on how to adopt a highway.