In the US as a whole, about 44%  of each barrel of oil is converted to motor gasoline and used to fuel personal automobiles, vans and light trucks. Personal vehicles are by far the largest single class of oil user today. The US Census tells us that in the year 2000, of 2,674 total workers in Harvard 16 years and over, 2,237 or 84% drove to work alone in a car, van or truck. According to the Census, the mean one-way travel time to work was 32.5 minutes . If we approximate a 50 MPH average speed, this represents 54 miles mean daily round trip commuting distance per worker, or 120,800 miles total for all workers in Harvard. This is 4.8 times around the world, every day.
A single gallon of gasoline contains the work energy equivalent of 27 healthy adults doing manual labor for 10 hours . If we assume an average car gets 23 miles per gallon, then Harvard alone is using about 5,200 gallons of gasoline per day, or the equivalent work of 140,400 laborers, just to get us and our 3,000 lb. vehicles to and from work.
We don't have any short term answers for Harvard's transportation/commuting problem. Since most of our jobs are in other towns, most Harvard residents must commute. However, there are several incremental ways we can decrease our transportation fuel use. And since transportation is such a large proportion of our overall energy use, these small improvements can have a large overall effect.
Harvard Local has identified the following initiatives to use transportation fuel more efficiently, and will provide a community forum for discussing and organizing them.
Ride Share. Arrange to share a ride or car pool with other commuters going to the same work
Telecommute one day per week. If possible, encourage your company to allow one day of work from home per week. Working from home, while connected to the office via broadband Internet, is often more productive than working at the office.
Ride a commuter bus to MBTA stations. We are looking at the feasibility of reducing the number of single occupant car trips from Harvard to South Acton and Ayer commuter stations, by contracting a bus company to provide transportation from a local pick up point, saving both fuel and parking fees.
Promote biking and walking in town. The Harvard Master Plan envisions walkways and bicycle paths to decrease traffic and promote a healthier environment. Supporting this plan will help conserve fuel.
Encourage local businesses. Harvard can retain its small town character while supporting more small businesses that provide local goods and services, and reduce the number of car trips to other towns.
Change driving habits. Boring stuff! Slow down, accelerate slowly, plan your trips, and keep tires at recommended pressure (which can save 3% of fuel). See Driving More Efficiently.
Driving cars permeates our culture to such an extent that no one solution, short of a large gasoline tax or a sudden increase in gas price, will change our habits overnight. According to the Hirsch report, the existing fleet of cars will be on the road for another 10-15 years, and the impact of any federal mileage standards for the auto industry, even if enacted, would be slow to cause a change. Absent federal leadership for energy conservation, we believe the change must come now from state and local initiatives.