Friday, March 26, 2010

More than just buses; a look at CTR

Many people think of Community Transit as a bus company, but our role in giving the people of Snohomish County transportation options extends far beyond buses.

We work with some of the largest employers in the region to help reduce congestion on our roadways. Each year we honor the businesses and the people who make Commute Trip Reduction (CTR) effective in Snohomish County and Bothell. There are 74 businesses in our jurisdiction with more than 100 employees, representing about 26,000 people. Our shared task, according to state CTR law, is to reduce the number of people who drive alone to the worksite, and to reduce the total number of miles traveled by employees .

Most businesses use the carrot approach: preferred parking for carpools, vanpool and bus pass subsidies, support for Bike to Work and other fun events like the state’s current Wheel Options campaign –share the ride and win!

It’s surprising how just a little support for changing our habits and saving money can make a big difference. According to the state Department of Transportation (WSDOT): “At worksites that have participated in the CTR Program since 1993, the drive-alone rate dropped from 70.9 percent in 1993 to 65.5 percent in 2007. This is a larger drop than for the state as a whole and is also larger than the drop at other worksites in the same areas that have the same access to commute options.”

Cypress Semiconductor in unincorporated Lynnwood was honored as Community Transit’s Employer of the Year for 2009. The company considered ending its free bus pass program, but instead decided to try the new ORCA pass at a bulk rate. Now 10 percent fewer people drive alone to the business park off 164th Street. The ORCA card makes it easier for Cypress to pay for actual transit use while making bus passes available for all employees.

CTR programs don’t just benefit bigger businesses and the employees who participate. WSDOT says: “In the central Puget Sound, the CTR program plays an especially important role. Many of the trips reduced by participants in the CTR program would otherwise have passed through the region's major traffic chokepoints during peak travel periods. The absence of 19,200 vehicle trips every morning reduced peak travel delay by an estimated 18 percent on average mornings in the region.”

Read between the lines. This shows that alternative transportation helps those people who still drive! And it saves dollars! The program saved $35 in wasted time and resources for every $1 the state invested in 2009. For more proof of the value of CTR, see the 2007 state performance audit of the Department of Transportation that calls for more state investment in Commute Trip Reduction.

What do you think the state DOT’s priorities should be in this tight economy?
Building major road projects that create jobs?

Investing in efficient use of our existing infrastructure through programs like CTR and transit?

Keeping the roads and bridges well-maintained and safe?

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