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2009 Commuter Challenge Fueled by Prizes and Pride

Traffic Solutions program goes the incentives route to curb commutes

Since its founding, Traffic Solutions has sought to educate the community on ways to reduce the number of cars and commuters on the road — for the greater good. Sometimes it can be more effective to appeal to basic competitive instinct instead.

Taking that idea and hitting the gas, Traffic Solutions is announcing its second annual Commuter Challenge by revisiting the first. During the Old Town Santa Barbara farmers market Tuesday, the top five winning employers from last year’s challenge will go head to head in a five-member team Surrey Race. Lori LaRiva, Traffic Solutions’ project coordinator, said the rematch could be a bit of a grudge match.

According to LaRiva, the city of Santa Barbara topped Santa Barbara County last year in the Large Employer category — an upset in the county’s eyes. She said 1st District Supervisor Salud Carbajal has not forgotten that outcome and has likely been exhorting his troops to finish first this time.

While that score may not yet be settled, Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum will lead her city in the five-way contest Tuesday. Santa Barbara will face teams from the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara; the Community Environmental Council; Ryerson, Master & Associates Inc.; and Yardi Systems.

The Commuter Challenge is a friendly, team-based competition during May and June. Commuters form teams of five and earn points and prizes when they take the bus or train, carpool, vanpool, bike, walk, skate or telecommute instead of driving alone. Prizes include iPhones, iPods, bike shop certificates, movie tickets and cold hard cash. While individuals earn points for their own teams, they also earn points for their employers, which are competing for prizes of up to $1,500 in cash.

More than 1,500 commuters competed in 2008, and LaRiva said the result was a reduction of 1.37 million miles driven, which she said saved employees more than $743,000 in commuting costs and pared the community’s carbon footprint by 1.25 million pounds of CO2.

Traffic Solutions will hold a kickoff news conference at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the corner of Cota and States streets, as part of the farmers market. The surrey race will follow.

Registration for the 2009 Traffic Solutions Commuter Challenge will open Wednesday. Anyone who lives or works in Santa Barbara County is eligible to participate.

Click here for more information or call 805.963.7283.

Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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