From: Karen Gaudette, The Seattle Times
Published December 1, 2004 12:00 AM

Seattle Nonprofit Offers Solo Drivers Payment to Ditch Cars

Dec. 1—Cranky after creeping through the Kirkland Crawl? Morose over the Mercer Mess? Burning to take a bus to Bellevue rather than brave the 520 bridge another day?





Commuter Challenge, a Seattle nonprofit group that aims to improve mobility and sustain the environment, is offering solo drivers throughout the Puget Sound region up to $192 if they ditch their cars a few days a week and get to and from work a different way — whether via a bus, train or car pool, astride a bike or by working from home.





The Regional $mart Commute Program will accept participants through January and hopes the cash incentive is enough to encourage 700 to 800 commuters from King, Snohomish, Pierce and Kitsap counties to give alternative transportation a try.





The program is targeting commuters at businesses with fewer than 100 employees, said Heather Engelbrecht, Commuter Challenge deputy director. Most larger businesses are required by law to offer incentives for employees to take alternative transportation.





"It's to try to get those people who haven't tried an alternative-commute mode to jump out of their comfort zone and try something new," Engelbrecht said.





Here's how it works: To qualify for cash, solo drivers must agree to use alternative transportation at least 13 workdays during the three months after the day they register.





Commuter Challenge is offering solo drivers in King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish counties up to $192 to try alternative transportation. The nonprofit group's Regional $mart Commute Program is accepting participants through January. To see if you qualify and to get more information, visit www.smartcommutenw.com, call 206-389-8660 or e-mail the program manager at admin@commuterchallenge .org.





They log their commutes online and earn $3 for every day out of the car, with a maximum of $192.





They are on their honor to follow through, although the program will check in with bosses or others who have agreed to vouch for them. At the end of the term, participants receive a cash gift card good pretty much anywhere they shop that takes a credit card.





The program, funded by a $100,000 state Department of Transportation performance grant, has signed up about 100 participants since its October launch, Engelbrecht said. It will report its results to the state in June.





Commuter Challenge hopes the results mimic those of a similar commuter cash-incentive program in Atlanta organized by the Clean Air Campaign, a Georgia nonprofit organization trying to reduce that state's air pollution and traffic congestion.





More than 70 percent of participants there reported they were using alternative transportation six months after the program ended, Engelbrecht said.





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© 2004, The Seattle Times. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.


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