Commute-smart champs take a bow

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November 6, 2012

OLYMPIA — Easing traffic congestion is just part of the work they do. For the recipients of the 2012 Governor’s Commute Smart Awards, leadership goes beyond a normal day’s work; it makes Washington state a better place to live and work for everyone.

This year’s 22 honorees represent a growing movement in transportation leadership in the workplace. Employers and individuals, such as Bellevue College sustainability coordinator Deric Gruen and Bellingham’s Community Food Co-op, represent the essence of smart commuting. They, and the rest of those awarded Monday, use innovation and initiative to encourage workers to drive less often and adjust their commutes in ways that support communities, strengthen the state’s economy and help ease the stress of transportation on the environment.

“You are making our entire transportation system work better, and you are reducing the burden that traffic congestion puts on our environment, economy and communities,” Keith Cotton, demand management programs manager for the Washington State Department of Transportation, told the honorees Monday during an awards ceremony at the state Legislative Building in Olympia.

Gruen commissioned a parking study at Bellevue College and established a transportation management taskforce of student and employee stakeholders. He led outreach efforts for at the school and developed a program to use parking fees to offset the rising cost of the school’s transit pass program for students and employees. Participation in the program soon increased by 30 percent.

Known for its commitment to sustainability in Bellingham, Community Food Co-op offers its employees $1 for every day that they forego driving alone to work. Bus riders receive a $5 subsidy for their $25 monthly passes.

Each year the Governor’s Commute Smart Awards recognizes communities, businesses, agencies and workplace transportation coordinators for their creative efforts to promote ridesharing and other alternatives to driving alone, such as bicycling and teleworking. Their work improves traffic flow, strengthens the economy by empowering more than 570,000 commuters across the state to drive 160 million fewer vehicle miles annually, saving 8 million gallons of fuel. It also cuts greenhouse gas emissions by more than 71,500 metric tons. That’s the weight of eight Space Needles.

The awards highlight the benefits of commute trip reduction – like better traffic flow and cleaner air – felt by everyone who lives or works in Washington. It’s a celebration of efficient transportation as much as it is a demonstration in efficient public spending. For every taxpayer dollar that goes to these programs, businesses invest $18. And their returns are substantial in employee satisfaction, cost savings and community appreciation.

Passed by the state Legislature in 1991, the Commute Trip Reduction (CTR) Law calls on employers to encourage their workers to choose transportation options that reduce the number of vehicles on the road. For two decades, CTR has proven an effective tool that eases congestion and helps our transportation system operate more efficiently. By encouraging people to ride the bus, vanpool, carpool, walk, bike, work at home or compress their work week, CTR makes transportation better for everyone in the state.

More details and the list of winners are posted WSDOT’s Public Transportation page.

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