Transportation/Needham in Motion

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Needham in Motion is a town-wide initiative to encourage clean modes of transportation, such as walking, biking and public transportation.

Needham has often worked to promote healthy and clean transportation options. In the early 1990s, Needham was a recognized leader in an initiative called Healthy Strides, a community-wide walking program. More recently, Park and Recreation and Eat Well Be Fit have organized community walking events such as Walktober, and Spring into Action.

Now with Needham in Motion several Needham organizations are coming together to promote active transportation from a variety of perspectives. Groups involved in this initiative include the following (with more joining):

  • League of Women Voters Needham, Transportation Group (primary sponsor)
  • Bay Colony Rail Trail
  • Eat Well, Be Fit
  • Green Needham
  • League of Women Voters Needham, Transportation Group (primary sponsor)
  • Needham Bikes
  • Needham Conservation Commission
  • Needham Friends of Woods and Waters
  • Needham Park & Recreation
  • Safe Routes to School


Objectives

Simply stated, the objective of Needham in Motion is to encourage residents to leave their car at home when they travel on short trips. There are several underlying motivations behind this program:

  • Environment: Reduce the town's transportation-related carbon footprint
  • Traffic: Reduce congestion of our roads and parking lots
  • Health: Increase activity level of residents
  • Enjoyment: Encourage the simple pleasure that comes from being active and outside
  • Community: Promote a town identity of activity, responsibility and friendliness

From an environmental perspective, each of us can contribute to addressing climate change when we walk out our front door by choosing to walk, bike, take public transportation or even carpool. Automotive traffic contributes approximately 20% to the carbon dioxide emitted globally, and U.S. automobiles and light trucks are responsible for nearly half of all greenhouse gases emitted by automobiles globally, according to a new study by Environmental Defense. U.S. drivers average 11,000 miles per year, 29 percent above the global average. Needham could help bring this average down simply by choosing to walk or bike on short trips, or taking public transportation more frequently.

The Rails to Trails Conservancy recently published a comprehensive report called Active Transportation for America: A Case for Increased Federal Investment in Bicycling and Walking, that underscores the value of improving rates of walking and bicycling. The report concludes that,

"[M]odest increases in bicycling and walking could lead to an annual reduction of 70 billion miles of automobile travel. More substantial increases could lead to the avoidance of 200 billion miles per year... This volume of decreased auto travel is equivalent to cutting oil dependence and greenhouse gas emissions from passenger vehicles by 3 percent (Modest Scenario) to 8 percent (Substantial Scenario)."

This then is the simple objective of Needham in Motion: the reduction of automobile travel miles by Needham residents.

Approach

To kick off the initiative, Needham in Motion will host a month-long series of activities and events in May 2010. Each week of the month will be sponsored by a different group in the town:

  • The first week of the month, May 3 - 9, Eat Well Be Fit Needham will take the lead by hosting their annual Spring into Action event.
  • The second week, May 10 - 16, will focus on hiking, and activities will be led by Park & Rec, Needham Friends of Woods and Waters and the Bay Colony Rail Trail.
  • The third week, May 17 - 23, will be sponsored by Needham Bikes, coinciding with the annual Bay State Bike Week.
  • The fourth week, May 24 - 30, will focus on encouraging residents to take public transportation.

Many details are still to be worked out, but a calendar of events has already begun to come together. This calendar will be made public in the winter of 2010.