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Commuter incentive program aims to get people out of their cars

Published: Sep. 1, 2021 at 5:00 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 2, 2021 at 5:31 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A project in Chittenden County is giving drivers an incentive to commute without their cars.

“I feel like the best version of myself when I’m walking in the morning or biking in the morning,” Emily Hoffman said.

Hoffman and her co-workers at LONDONmiddleburry are participating in the Commuter Incentive Program of Chittenden County. For a few months now, they’ve chosen to bike instead of drive.

“I’m commuting four out of six days a week here into the office or carpooling and not using a car just by myself,” said Ashley Sandy, the founder of LONDONmiddlebury.

Phoebe Melchiskey kicked off the commuter incentive program in April. VTrans is helping her run it and got a grant to pay for it.

“Our main goal is cutting these greenhouse gas emissions and promoting some real behavioral changes among people who are driving to work primarily,” Melchiskey said.

Participants sign up and commit to finding a new way to get to work-- carpooling, riding a bike, walking or taking a bus-- at least two days a week.

In exchange, they get up to a $75 gift card from local businesses including the Skirack, the Spot, City Market and the Farmhouse Tap and Grill.

“If you incentivize someone and have them do it for a long period of time, think a couple of months, you can hopefully ingrain that as outside their normal habits, and once you switch your habits, you can be a commuter for life,” said Dan Currier, the public transit coordinator for the Vermont Agency of Transportation.

So far, the program has 32 users throughout the county.

“I didn’t realize how often we chose to use the car instead of just walking to work or riding our bikes into work. It’s such an easy thing to do and we all like each other here, so carpooling isn’t a problem,” Sandy said.

VTrans says 84% of Vermonters drive their own car to work. This program is trying to change that.

Incentives are not the only reason why carpooling and using public transportation to get to work would be a good idea. Currier says the fewer parking spaces they need for commuters, the more likely they are to turn those parking spaces into something else for the city.

“People carpooling, people using more transit-- we can reutilize that space. It doesn’t need to be parking anymore; it can be housing, it could be parks,” Currier said.

Melchiskey says the program has eliminated more than 1,400 commuter trips over the course of four months.

“Three-thousand, eight-hundred miles have been not driven,” she said.

You can learn more about the program here: Commuter Incentive Program – of Chittenden County, VT (sustainablecommute.com)

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