Tuesday, March 25, 2008

City's transportation program sees success

BY ERIC LINDBERG
DAILY SOUND STAFF WRITER

New incentives and features for city employees to use alternative transportation are working, city transportation officials told the City Council.
A status report on the city’s Work Trip Reduction Incentive Program (TRIP) showed that more city workers are carpooling, taking the bus, or riding their bike to work.

“It’s amazing what kind of progress we’ve already made,” Mayor Marty Blum said.
Dru van Hengel, the city’s supervising transportation engineer, described how officials began looking for changes to make to the program in January 2007. At that time, she said commuting was taking longer, costing more, and leaving employees exhausted and thinking of finding jobs closer to home.
“They’re already tired by the time they get to work,” she said. “They’ve had a day by the time they get to the workplace.”
New features introduced last July include organized carpools, subsidies for long-distance bus and vanpool use, and a new work schedule.
Van Hengel said changes to the city’s vehicle use policy also allows employees to use city vehicles for occasional personal trips on breaks and during lunch, as well as to transport family members to medical appointments or school.
Employees have offered positive feedback about the city’s new flexible work schedule, which has 80 percent participation and reduced 10,000 vehicle trips, officials said. More than 70 percent of survey respondents said it improves morale, reduces stress, and makes them more likely to remain employed with the city.
“You see the real impact we’re having on our employees,” van Hengel said.
The carpool program had 35 participants in December, she said, and reduced an estimated 113,000 miles traveled in six months. However, the most popular program remains the free MTD bus passes with 165 participants.
The annual cost of the program is estimated at $137,500. Transportation officials are already considering changes suggested by employees in a feedback survey, such as introducing cash incentives.
Councilmember Dale Francisco said while he appreciates the idea of reducing the number of people who are commuting alone, he would like to see a cost-benefit analysis to determine the cost-effectiveness of the Work TRIP program.
Mayor Blum, while applauding the work already accomplished, said transportation officials will need to continue looking for more solutions, especially with major construction along Highway 101 south of Santa Barbara beginning in June.
“We’ll have to keep thinking outside the box,” she said.

2 comments:

Greg Knowles said...

I like what they are doing. Good Job!

MCConfrontation said...

I participate in this program and it's great. For about $18 a month I get a ride to work. With gas at $4 a gallon, it's totally worth it to me to carpool in a city vehicle. It's rarely an inconvenience.