updated 6/15/2011 10:18:35 AM ET 2011-06-15T14:18:35

If you've ever been stuck behind the wheel in rush-hour gridlock, you might have wondered about alternate means of transportation. This Thursday, June 16, you'll receive a little more encouragement to follow up on those thoughts during the sixth-annual "Dump the Pump" day.

"Dump the Pump" is sponsored by the American Public Transportation Association, the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council, and its goal is pretty straightforward: encourage car-owners to give up their vehicles for one day and use public transportation. In doing so, sponsors argue, commuters will save money (thanks to still-high gas prices) and curb CO2 emissions (up to 20 pounds for a 20-mile commute).

As an enticement, many transit systems will beef up their schedules to accommodate the influx of new riders. Some cities have even gone so far as to offer free rides for the day.

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"Dump the Pump" is a lot like the "Great American Smokeout" sponsored by the American Cancer Society. By themselves, neither event is likely to lead to long-term changes in personal habits, but they do encourage the public to become familiar with other options. So, just as a smoker may realize that going without a cigarette for a day isn't so hard, the sponsors of "Dump the Pump" hope that participants will see that public transportation can be an efficient way of getting around town.

As great as that sounds, however, "Dump the Pump" participants will face some challenges that "Smokeout" folks don't. First, they'll need to live in a city with a solid mass transit system. They'll also need to allot some extra time for the commute: public transportation speeds vary and, if we're honest, using them often takes longer than if folks were to drive the distance themselves. (Though there are benefits to having someone else at the wheel, like having the chance to work, read, listen to music or nap.)

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If "Dump the Pump" sponsors really want to push public transit, maybe they should team up with Google to expand its new "Live Transit Updates." After all, studies have shown that perhaps more than anything else, apps are one of the greatest encouragements to take mass transportation.

If you're interested, you can learn more about "Dump the Pump" from the American Public Transportation Association and the Sierra Club.

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