Ten at the Top recently hosted an event called “A Cleaner Future: A Look at Air Quality, Sustainability, and Energy Innovation in the Upstate,” which covered topics ranging from health issues to homebuilding to transporting groceries more sustainably.
In the focus area of transportation, Maeve Mason and Landon Masters from the SC Office of Regulatory Staff Energy Office gave a presentation about their organization’s Transportation Fuel Action Tool—and if you’re scratching your head, wondering why the Energy Office is talking about transportation, Masters offers this statistic in answer: 29% of energy consumption in South Carolina is due to transportation (compared to 32% industrial use and only 22% residential).
With that in mind, the Energy Office has a suite of tools and initiatives aimed at making that consumption more efficient—among them, the above-mentioned Transportation Fuel Action Tool, which helps companies and organizations that own fleets of vehicles to audit and analyze their fleet, factoring in intangibles such as public opinion, political will, economic development, and more, in order to inform decisions about a possible move to alternative fuel sources. Masters notes that in areas where electricity is generated by coal, making a shift to electric vehicles may not be much of a gain in terms of clean energy, but the tool takes that into consideration based on the user’s region.
In partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy, there are also a variety of tools for individuals to make informed decisions about their fuel consumption, whether they’re buying a new or used car, wanting to find alternative fueling stations, or looking for information to read up on the subject. There are mobile tools as well for locating fueling stations and comparing fuel efficiency, emissions, and costs among different vehicles.
As part of the Palmetto Clean Fuels coalition (PCF), Plug In SC is an initiative whose aim is to increase the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) by making charging stations visible and easy to find, using signage, pavement markings, and designated parking spaces. It wasn’t enough to simply provide the charging stations, Masters says, because many times they were tucked away behind a concrete wall in a corner of a parking garage. True, EV drivers will find them because they need them, but part of making them visible is creating awareness in other drivers that charging stations are plentiful and accessible.
A comprehensive state energy plan is in the works—a collaboration of stakeholders putting together a vision for the future of energy in the state and recommendations about what is needed to get there. One of those recommendations came from the transportation subcommittee: Lead by example, particularly when it comes to the adoption of alternative fuel sources and modes of transportation.
“We’ve been working with our stakeholder groups and state fleets to identify goals for adoption of alternative fuel vehicles statewide from a public fleet perspective,” Masters says. “We’re hoping that we can include a recommendation for a state goal, and that goal can be established and we can work using the tool that we have to help fleets make that transition.”
For more information about how your organization or you as an individual can conserve fuel, consider alternatives, and make an impact on South Carolina’s air quality, visit Palmetto Clean Fuels.org.
GREENVILLE, S.C.— Ten at the Top (TATT) has announced the speakers for A Cleaner Future: A Look at Air Quality, Sustainability & Energy Innovation in the Upstate Workshop, which will be held on August 17 from 10 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. at the TD Convention Center. This event will focus on how innovation and technology is helping individuals, businesses, institutions and governments enhance air quality and environmental sustainability whether it be in the home, while traveling or in the business setting.
“Continuing to improve air quality and sustainability in the Upstate is vital to both the physical health of Upstate residents and to the economic health of our region,” Dean Hybl, Executive Director of Ten at the Top, said. TATT has coordinated with the Upstate Air Quality Advisory Committee for this initiative.
“We are fortunate to have a great group of dynamic speakers for the workshop who will provide attendees with a wide range of ideas and tangible ways to improve air quality and sustainability while in many cases also saving money and resources,” Hybl said.
Event programming will feature the following:
Focus: Current status of air quality in the Upstate and how air quality impacts the physical health of Upstate residents.
• Karen Schwartz, Vice President of Performance Management/Support Services, Bon Secours Health System
• Dean Hybl, Executive Director, Ten at the Top
After the opening session, attendees will hear from the following presenters from three distinct market segments: home, transportation and business.
Focus: LEED Certification & Energy Efficiency
• Todd Usher, Founder and President, Addison Homes
• Lynda Shafer, Strategy & Collaboration Manager, Duke Energy
Focus: Transportation Fuel Action Tool (TAT)
• Maeve Mason, Deputy Director of Energy, Palmetto Clean Fuels Coalition
Focus: Whether it be from installing a solar farm on the roof of your manufacturing facility or instituting sustainability practices in warehouses or trucking fleet, there are a variety of decision making steps a company uses to make investments that support the environment as well as the company bottom line.
• Fraser League, President, Quick-Crate America
• Chris Trajkovski, Vice President of Transportation for Fleet Maintenance & Assets, C&S Wholesale Grocers
The workshop will culminate with lunch and a keynote wrap-up panel.
Keynote Wrap-Up Panel
• Michelle Abbott, Director of Sustainability, Duke Energy
• Weston Dripps, Executive Director of the Shi Center for Sustainability, Furman University
• Paul Pruitt, Director of Corporate EHS & Engineering, Milliken & Co
• Karen Schwartz, Vice President of Performance Management and Support Services, Bon Secours Health System
Additional sponsors include Piedmont Natural Gas and ReWa. A Cleaner Future tickets cost $20 and may be purchased here. Advanced registration is required, and space is limited.
About Ten at the Top
Comprised of public, private and civic leaders from across the ten-county Upstate South Carolina Region, Ten at the Top was created to connect and encourage regional collaboration through data-driven research and regular convening of leaders and citizens to address key issues facing the region. Ten at the Top works with regional partners to foster collaboration and strategic planning to enhance the economic vitality and quality of life for Upstate residents both today and as the region continues to grow
Whether hosted by Ten at the Top or another Upstate organization, over the last eight years I have participated in many events and meetings to discuss various issues that are impacting current and future growth in our region. Most of the time I leave feeling like it was a good use of my time and quality discussion, but knowing that the primary outcome will be more meetings and more discussions as part of a long process to enact change in the Upstate.
I had a very different feeling throughout the October 18th Connecting Our Future Kickoff event. Instead of being another event where the general mindset is that we have 20-30 years to strategically address our issues, there was a very different tone and sense of urgency cast by speakers and participants.
Whether related to an increase in traffic congestion on many of our roads, growth in previously undeveloped areas, potential disruptive technologies that have the ability to radically change how we think about transportation, that we have jobs going unfilled because we have potential workers who don’t have access to dependable transportation, or perhaps all of the above as well as several other factors, the message throughout the event was very clear, we have to move from discussion to action and do it now.
So, the key question is what do we do and how do we do it?
According to Carla Bailo, who was our keynote speaker and has been active in efforts to advance transportation and mobility in Columbus, Ohio, one key component is to have a business community that is willing to not only talk about how to move forward, but will also invest in making it happen.
Columbus recently received a $40 million Smart Cities grant from USDOT. Through public-private investment they have parlayed that grant into nearly a half a billion dollars in funding and in-kind support that eventually should turn Columbus into a model for using smart technology to move people and goods across a region.
In the Upstate, groups like Ten at the Top, the Upstate SC Alliance, Upstate Forever, the Riley Institute at Furman, the Upstate Chamber Coalition and many others have spent the last decade working to cultivate a spirit of collaboration and regionalism as we look at how to tackle major growth issues.
In addition, our region is fortunate to have Clemson’s International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) actively engaged in understanding and developing the future technologies that will forever change mobility. We also have companies including BMW, Michelin and many others who are major players in shaping the transportation future for our country and world.
With so many positive assets, it is imperative that we leverage them in a way that positions the Upstate for success around mobility and moving people and goods.
For many years, a common mantra in the Upstate has been “we don’t want to be Charlotte and we don’t want to be Atlanta” when talking about sprawling growth, traffic congestion and increased pollution. However, most of our current policies and investments around those issues are actually pushing us in the Charlotte or Atlanta direction instead of towards something else.
If we truly want to be a region where all residents can easily and affordably get from place to place and we do not have the negative impacts of sprawling growth and congestion, then we have to decide collectively what we want and how we are going to work together and invest our resources to create a different future.
We have many of the ingredients needed, but do we have the willingness amongst our residents, elected officials and business leaders to actually start making different choices and investments towards the future of our region?
The Connecting Our Future initiative is designed to help create a vision for what we want as a region and then develop strategies for how to get there.
Not every effort needs to be done collectively, in fact future success will require local initiatives and investments. However, if we are all working from the same playbook and moving towards the same goals, then collective success is surely obtainable.
What will be critical for the outcomes of Connecting Our Future to truly be impactful in changing the trajectory for future growth in the Upstate is that every stakeholder group must be at the table and willing to play a role in making a difference. It is not someone else’s problem or something someone else will fix for us.
The time to impact our collective future is now and it is up to all of us who call the Upstate home to play a role in ensuring that our region is a great place to live, learn, do business and raise a family for generations to come.
Imagine living in an Upstate region where no matter which city, town or county you lived in or your level of income, you knew that you had access to dependable and affordable transportation that could take you to your job, appointments or shopping and then back home again in a timely and relatively easy manner every single day.
While many of us are fortunate enough to have daily access to our personal automobile, chances are it takes you noticeably longer to get from place to place today than it did even five years ago. In fact, within the Upstate region, 94% of all people who work travel to their job using an automobile, with 85% driving alone and 9% car-pooling. That works out to somewhere around 690,000 vehicles on the roads across the Upstate every day just to get people to and from work.
A recent study by INRIX reported that the average motorist in Greenville spent 11.5 hours in 2016 stuck in congested traffic. They also estimate that traffic congestion costs the average motorist $1,200 per year in wasted gasoline and time.
However, while the biggest issue related to transportation for many of us is congestion, there are others within both the urban and rural areas of our region who simply do not have reliable personal transportation. While there are many places across the country where public transportation helps alleviate access issues, that isn’t really the case here in the Upstate.
Across the region, only 0.4% of all workers (roughly 3,000 of the more than 750,000 people working in the region) utilize some type of public transportation to get to their place of work. Those without dependable transportation often struggle to find or maintain employment because they can’t easily get to a job location.
So to reach our imagined future of a region where transportation is available and timely for all, access and congestion become two prominent issues that must be understood and addressed.
In partnership with more than 20 transportation and community partners, Ten at the Top is coordinating a year-long effort known as Connecting Our Future to develop a vision, strategic goals and impactful actions that can ultimately make it easier to move people and goods across the Upstate while reducing congestion and increasing mobility opportunities for all residents.
Since 2010, the Upstate has added more than 60,000 new residents, which based on employment numbers means every day there are between 30,000 and 40,000 more cars on our local roads than there were seven years ago.
Between now and 2040, the region is projected to add another 321,000 residents and 256,000 new jobs. That means unless we start doing something differently in terms of how people get to work every day, by 2040 we will have nearly a million cars on the road every day just to get people to work (not counting school buses, trucks or people traveling for appointments or shopping).
When I moved to the Upstate nearly eight years ago I heard from many people that they were glad to be living in a region with a solid and growing economy, but that they didn’t want to see this region consumed by some of the same characteristics of sprawling growth, traffic congestion and endangered natural resources as our neighbors in Charlotte or Atlanta.
The reality is that while we are not quite to the point of either of those areas, most of our current policies and investments put us on a collision course with that future. Models from the recent Shaping Our Future growth study showed that if we continue our current land use trends over the next 25 years, we will more than double the amount of land used for our built environment by 2040.
Transportation and specifically how we move people and goods from place to place is an important component of that land use and an area where doing things differently can have a significant impact on how we grow moving forward.
Communities that have successfully addressed transportation and mobility issues have typically done so through developing partnerships that include the business community, transportation stakeholders, local governments and other community partners. We hope through Connecting Our Future to develop a coalition of stakeholders who not only create a connected vision for mobility and transportation, but will work together to identify and implement strategies and solutions that will help make this a region where we no longer have to just imagine that every resident can get from where they are to where they need to go in a timely and affordable manner.
If transportation and mobility are important to you, please join us for the kickoff of Connecting Our Future on October 18th from 9:30am—2:30pm at the TD Convention Center. Details are available at http://www.connectingourfutureupstatesc.org.
Ten at the Top is embarking upon an initiative focused on increasing mobility and connectivity while reducing traffic congestion across the 10-county Upstate, called Connecting Our Future.
Born from the Shaping Our Future Growth Scenarios Analysis, Connecting Our Future is an effort to create a regional vision and implementable strategies for transportation, mobility, and connectivity in the region. The effort is being supported by the Connecting Our Future Coalition, made up of stakeholders representing various geographical areas and sectors. A full list of current coalition members can be found on the Connecting Our Future website, www.connectingourfutureupstatesc.org.
The initiative will last for roughly a year, resulting in a regional vision document and related strategies for reducing congestion, moving people & freight across the region safely, and improving health and quality of life for Upstate residents by reducing emissions. Results of the initiative will be unveiled in Summer 2018.
The initiative will be kicked off with an event on October 18th at the TD Convention Center. The Kick Off event will include breakout sessions focused on various components of connectivity and mobility.
The event will wrap up with a keynote luncheon presentation by Carla Bailo, Assistant VP for Mobility Research & Business Development at Ohio State University. Carla helps coordinate Ohio State’s involvement as the primary research partner for Smart Columbus, a $140 million grant program to transform central Ohio into the nation’s premier transportation innovation region.
For additional information about the Connecting Our Future initiative and purchase tickets for the October 18th Kick Off Event, please visit www.connectingourfutureupstatesc.org.
The American Lung Association has released their 2017 State of the Air rankings and the Upstate South Carolina region is continuing to see the ratings for counties within the region improve. Of the Upstate counties specifically referenced in the report, Abbeville, Anderson, Oconee and Pickens counties received “A” ratings for Ozone; while Greenville, Spartanburg and Cherokee received “B”. This marks the first time that all seven counties have received an A or B rating.
In 2016, Spartanburg and Anderson were rated as a “C” and Cherokee a “D”. Dating back to 2012, Spartanburg had received an “F” grade and the rest of the Upstate was rated as a “C”, so the improvement within the region over the last few years has been remarkable and good for the health of all Upstate residents.
These ratings are consistent with the ozone monitor numbers that are recorded by the South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control (DHEC) as part of the EPA Clean Air Act monitoring. The emission numbers in the Upstate have seen steady improvement over the last 15 years and now, for the first time ever, the Upstate region is well within the current EPA attainment standards.
Since 2012, Ten at the Top has coordinated the Upstate Air Quality Advisory Committee, which includes public, private and civic stakeholders all focused on ensuring the Upstate’s air quality continues to meet federal standards. Through voluntary efforts of many businesses, local governments and residents, the air quality in the Upstate is continuing to improve.
The American Lung Association measures the state of the air by analyzing particle pollution in two different ways: the average annual levels of particle pollution and spikes of short term particle pollution. The levels of ozone and particle pollution are measured at official monitoring sites maintained by the Environmental Protection Agency. To view the American Lung Association State of the Air 2017 report in its entirety please visit www.tenatthetop.org and click on Natural Beauty & Resources.
The week of May 1st through May 5th is recognized as Air Quality Awareness Week. This special week provides an opportunity to educate the public on the importance of clean air and simple ways we can improve our air quality. Check out www.CleanAirUpstate.org or the Ten at the Top Facebook page for tips on how to play a role in keeping our air clean and safe for everyone in the Upstate.