Sustainable transportation includes any type of transport that reduces or completely avoids using a personal vehicle (ridesharing, carpooling, public transportation, biking, etc.) and traditional transportation that uses cleaner fuel sources, like biofuel (fuel made from biomass like switch grass, corn, and algae), hydrogen and natural gas. Hybrid and electric-powered vehicles are also sometimes considered more sustainable than traditional vehicles.
Transportation is one of the largest contributors to global warming, producing approximately 15% of the man-made CO2 in the atmosphere. Cars provide us with convenience and freedom, but can also cause problems like increasing greenhouse gas emissions leading to climate change and air pollution, increased respiratory illness, traffic congestion, unpredictable fuel prices, space limits on new road construction, parking issues, and the health effects of an overly stationary population. To become a more sustainable society will require a combination of cleaner sources of fuel for existing modes of transportation and a shift to less environmentally harmful types of transportation.
The City of Pittsburgh is involved in multiple initiatives aimed at increasing biking and public transportation use, as well as decreasing the pollution created by City-owned vehicles, such as fire trucks and waste haulers.
The City uses B20 biodiesel (20% biodiesel, 80% petroleum diesel blend) in all diesel equipment. The biodiesel is from a local processor in the City of Pittsburgh and is made from the bi-products of animal rendering operations. Biodiesel burns cleaner than traditional diesel, reducing basic emissions by up to 40% and reduces our dependence on foreign oil. As the biodiesel market grows, it will help to protect this region from highly variable and rising petroleum prices.
The City is also retrofitting its diesel waste hauling vehicles with equipment to reduce diesel particulate emissions. The City has installed diesel particulate filters on 13 waste haulers and has recently received a grant from the state for $443,100 to retrofit the rest of the fleet. Particulate matter is a harmful pollutant that can cause respiratory problems for humans. Retrofitting waste haulers makes sense because these vehicles are out in the community 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year, in close proximity to neighborhood residents, as well as the employees who work on them. These projects have involved partner organizations including Allegheny County Health Department, Clean Water Action and the Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP).
Following a successful pilot in 2009, the City has partnered with Zipcar, a car-sharing program, to allow employees to use Zipcars, reducing the need for a motor pool. Research has shown that car-sharing reduces the environmental impact of an organization by reducing the number of miles driven, and by saving valuable land for parking spaces. Zipcar also provides fuel-efficient and hybrid vehicles, which further helps to decrease emissions.
In May 2010, Pittsburgh was officially awarded "Bicycle Friendly Community" status by the League of American Bicyclists. This recognition follows several accomplishments since August 2007, when Mayor Ravenstahl hired the first Bike/Ped Coordinator in the state.
- Adding approximately thirteen (13) miles of bike lanes/shared lane markings.
- Passing a bicycle rack ordinance that facilitates and expedites the placing of bicycle racks in the public right-of-way.
- Passing a bicycle parking ordinance that will require bicycle racks for new and change of use developments.
- Partnering with BikePGH to produce Bike Commute 101, a comprehensive how-to guide for commuting in Pittsburgh, and to donate 200 bicycle racks to the City's business districts.
- Commencing development of a bicycle route and signage plan that will provide a blueprint for a "wayfinding" and destination signage system tailored to cyclists.
- Securing funding for a bicycle/pedestrian comprehensive plan that will define a vision for biking and walking in Pittsburgh.