City living just got a little more smug. You may have already felt good about taking the subway instead of driving, but now you can quantify exactly how good you should feel. In addition to considering time, distance, calories burned, and the amount of walking involved in public transit trips, you can now think about your carbon footprint. Public transit routing website HopStop announced last week that it is offering a carbon emissions savings calculator to its service.
"Ever since I started at HopStop two and a half years ago, everyone who communicated with me has always mentioned the environmental friendliness of the service," says HopStop CEO Joe Meyer. The logical next step was to figure out just how environmentally friendly different modes of alternative transportation are.
The carbon emissions calculations take into account the information that HopStop has gathered about its routes over the years (calories burned, miles traveled, etc) and combines it with data from the EPA and the World Resources Institute, which has researched the CO2 output of different vehicle types (a subway car versus an above-ground trolley, for example). Curious HopStop users can also compare the CO2 emissions of their public transit journeys to that of a car journey along the same route. It's always less. Hop Stop's carbon calculator doesn't consider some factors, like the carbon emissions that went into making your subway train, but it's a good baseline to find out the impact of your trip on the environment.
"I don't really look at what other people are doing to determine what we should do, but our biggest competitors are Google Maps, MapQuest, and Bing Maps, and I don't think they're doing this," explains Meyer. They're not.
It's hard to imagine even the most dedicated environmentalist choosing a route to work that would slow them down by half an hour just because it saves a little bit of CO2. But the point, Meyer says, is just to provide users with as much information as possible. Because if CO2 isn't measured, there's no way at all for public transit riders to factor in their emissions.
"I don't think individual users have the necessary knowledge or information to figure this out on their own, which is why we're doing it for them," says Meyer.
[Image: Flickr user NeitherFanboy]