In my opinion, it is time to start rethinking the way that we as a society go about doing everything. There is a problem with the amount of energy that we waste. From lights to the efficiency of our appliances to the miles per gallon our cars get. I believe every sector of energy has places where they can improve, and luckily there are some very easy ways to fix them, such as use Compact Flourescent Lights (CFLs) instead of incandescent, high efficiency water heaters, and reducing idling when traveling.
The Brookshaven National Laboratory website’s section entitled ”Auto Air Pollution Reduction Tips” states “a car uses less fuel when you turn off and restart [the] engine than letting [the] engine idle…” (http://www.bnl.gov/rideshare/reduction.asp). I found an interesting way that one company found to reduce the amount of time idling: avoid making left turns. ABC covered a story about how the United Parcel Service (UPS) “UPS plots its delivery routes to make as many right turns as possible” which presumably minimizes the amount of time the company’s trucks are idling at a left turn (http://abcnews.go.com/wnt/story?id=3005890). The article cites that the trucks are turning right 90% of the time, which saves approximately “three million gallons of fuel” (http://abcnews.go.com/wnt/story?id=3005890). That is a considerable amount, especially since gas prices when the article was written (April 2007) were above $3/gallon.
Granted these are amazing numbers, but you should realize that the company has a distinct interest in saving gas because their business revolves around driving. UPS has invested in “computers, codes and programming that allows them to plot out right-turn routes in minutes,” as well as a wealth of experience in finding the best routes (http://abcnews.go.com/wnt/story?id=3005890). It is also apparent to me that optimizing each individual citizen routes for the variety of trips that they take would be nearly impossible. It would definitely be a bad allocation of financial and computing resources.
Can we redesign the way we are constructing transportation route though to decrease the idling at left turns for the average citizen? How often do you find yourself sitting at a protected left turn, which is red even though no one is traveling the opposite direction? I suggest we begin incorporating traffic circles into our transportation designs. They are already in common use in many other countries (Australia, and Europe). Traffic circles, when used properly, allow drivers to not need to stop no matter which direction they are going. I believe that some intersections, specifically high traffic intersections, should still utilize traffic signals. But how difficult would it be to replace four way stops in new neighborhoods, and low traffic intersections into traffic circles, and taken on a whole could make a significant difference in decreasing idling among the public.