Programoffers cash to those who carpool, bike

Published on Thu, Jul 20, 2006 by TaraNelson

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Program offers cash to those who carpool, bike

By Tara Nelson

Whatcom County residents now have more reasons to walk, carpool or bicycle to work.

Whatcom Smart Trips, a program developed by the Whatcom County Council of Governments (WCOG), is offering cash and other incentives to residents when they choose other options besides driving.
Once registered with the Smart Trips program, participants are eligible for $250 monthly prize drawings, $1,000 quarterly prize drawings, discounts to Whatcom County merchants, thank you gifts, community recognition and emergency taxi rides home.

Susan Horst, community transportation program manager at WCOG, said the program was developed based on the success of their worksite-based Commute Trip Reduction program (CTR), a program that partnered with large employers to encourage their workers to drive less. CTR was successfully piloted in Bellingham in 2004.

Horst said part of the success of that program was based on its Smart Commuter card, which offered discounts to a variety of Whatcom County businesses to individuals who pledged to use public transportation, walk, bicycle or carpool whenever possible.

“It was a very popular program but it was limited to something like two dozen companies in Whatcom County,” Horst said. “People wanted to know why it wasn’t available to everyone.”

Horst said within the past 10 years, the CTR program has resulted in a six percent reduction in single passenger vehicle trips.

In addition, people who work or live within downtown Bellingham or Fairhaven are eligible for free quarterly bus passes until June 30, 2007.
Funding for the free bus passes is provided by the Washington state Department of Transportation (WSDOT). Horst said the give-away will help officials get a better idea of how many residents are interested in such programs.

The program is sponsored by the City of Bellingham, Whatcom County, Whatcom Transit Authority (WTA), Whatcom Council of Governments (WCOG), the State of Washington, as well as grants from Puget Sound Energy and the ConocoPhillips Ferndale Refinery.
For more information about the Whatcom Smart Trips program, visit www.whatcomSmartTrips.org.

Individuals without internet access are also able to use the Smart Trips program by calling 360/ 676-6974.