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Green Your Commute

Do you often sit in rush hour traffic, engine idling, going nowhere fast?

Is your commute taking longer than it used to because of all the other cars on the road?

America's urban commuters now waste an entire workweek each year -- some 38 hours -- stuck in traffic, according to a traffic study released late last year by Texas A&M University’s Texas Traffic Institute.

Not only is that wasted time you could have spent doing something constructive, it’s a major problem for the health of our planet.

Idling car engines are a significant contributor to the greenhouse emissions leading to global warming which has become, in the last 15 years or so, a major issue of international proportions.

But there are steps commuters can -- and should take -- to reduce their impact on the environment.

* Use mass transit. If you live in an area where bus or train service is available, use it as often as possible. The more cars removed from the roads, the better.

* Make your route more direct. If you will be commuting by car, take steps to make sure your route will be more direct. Before you head to someplace new, take out a map, or utilize the Internet to plan the most direct route.

If you have a newer vehicle, you should use your in-dash navigation aid. According to statistics kept by NAVTEQ, a leading global provider of digital maps for vehicle navigation (and location-based solutions), since 1999 nearly 18 million U.S. and Canadian vehicles have been equipped with either in-dash or portable electronic navigation systems.

Not only do they offer the benefit of a hands-free map, there’s also the time-savings, as you’ll be far less likely to get lost while trying to reach your destination. By driving a more direct route, you may use less gas.

“But it’s important to keep in mind the starter maps that come with these systems gradually become outdated. Commuters should get into the habit of updating them every year or two,” advises Cliff Fox of NAVTEQ.

* Avoid sitting in traffic. Some newer models of navigation systems have real-time traffic, which provides the latest and most comprehensive traffic information available.

Before you head out, use a resource like to get the most up-to-date traffic information along your planned route. If you find the way you usually take is congested, plan another route.

If you don’t have access to a computer before leaving on your trip, you can access the mobile Web site from your Web-equipped cell phone at, or by calling the (866) MY-TRAFC (866-698-7232) traffic hotline.

* Make the trip worth it. As long as you’re out and about anyway, complete multiple tasks, such as visiting the bank, shopping for groceries and dropping off the dry cleaning, all on the same trip.

* Weather permitting, make a pledge to ride your bike on short trips. On average, a third of trips are a mile or less.