October 20, 2008
The 2008 APTA Annual Meeting and EXPO in San Diego was a huge success!
Read all about it.
‘Green Guy’ Begley Shares Insights: Transit and Beyond
When Ed Begley Jr. talks about environmental awareness, people listen—and they did when the actor and green activist shared his decades of experience at the Oct. 5 General Session.
Begley’s connection with APTA dates back to 1990, when he appeared in a public service announcement with the tagline “America’s Future Rides on Transit.” But, as he told the audience, his commitment to the environment began many years before that.
“People are really drawn to public transportation now, and we need to be ready for them,” he said. Other ways Americans can improve their impact on the environment, he said, include growing their own food in community gardens and working toward the creation of new jobs in clean technologies.
“How did I get to be this green guy?” Begley asked rhetorically. “My biggest influence was growing up in smoggy L.A. in the 1950s and ’60s. We lived in the San Fernando Valley, and people would ask, how could it be a valley when there were no mountains around? There were mountains, but the air was so bad you couldn’t see them. Horrible, choking smog.”
Begley explained that he was a struggling actor when he decided to participate in the first Earth Day observance in 1970—a few days after the death of his father, Academy Award-winning actor Ed Begley Sr.
He noted that his father “was a conservative who liked to conserve,” and that his father inspired his interest in the outdoors.
“It was hard to be green and hip in 1970, when I started this,” Begley said, adding that his first “electric car” was actually a golf cart that cost him just $950. “Conserving felt good and also saved money. I started out cheap and easy, then moved up—to installing solar panels, for example.”
A questioner from the audience noted that portrayals of public transportation on television and in the movies tend toward the negative, such as showing subway stations as grimy and covered with graffiti. “I never really put it together,” Begley said. “Let’s see what we can do to improve that perception.”
Another audience member called for suggestions on how to make transit attractive to the public. “We must emphasize that there are so many pluses in taking transit,” Begley said. “Look at the daily commute: transit riders are relaxing while the drivers are stuck in traffic.”
He concluded: “When someone asks, ‘What can I do today?’, you can say, take public transportation.”
Begley said he only uses his electric car in circumstances where walking, bicycling, or taking public transit are not practical. He mentioned that he recently took a 60-mile bike ride from Ventura to Westwood, in southern California, and returned home by bus.
“I deliberately moved to a neighborhood where I could walk easily. We need more of them,” he added.