By Dave DeLuca
Most individuals see the value of choosing alternative transportation. We bike, bunch our trips, walk, and carpool to save money on gas while we save the planet. It seems as though a handful of local employers see the wisdom in reduced driving as well.
DriveLessConnect.com is the website helping coordinate the efforts of both companies and employees who are trying to reduce the number of cars on our roads. The site helps coordinate ridesharing efforts in 36 Oregon counties. Anyone can register on the site to find better ways to get to and from work, or wherever. The site can help put biking partners together, find carpool matches, organize vanpools, and even has a place to track trips and win prizes. The logistical challenges solved on the site are made possible through a collaborative effort of companies, municipalities, non-profit organizations, and individuals.
Here in town, the people behind the scenes are from City of Corvallis Public Works and Cascades West RideShare. CWR provides creative solutions to travel challenges for the people who live and work in Linn, Benton, and Lincoln counties. They also help run the Employee Transportation Coordinator program. ETCs are green-minded employees who help spread an alternative transportation message to their coworkers at local businesses.
Meghan Karas has been the Employee Transportation Coordinator for Footwise downtown for about a year and a half. She attends quarterly meetings with ETCs from other local companies like Hewlett-Packard, Work Unlimited, and CH2MHill. She also encourages her fellow workers to use alternative transportation for their work commute. Of the 20 employees at the Corvallis store, eight are committed to using alternative transportation for every day they work. They choose biking, walking, and busing over cars. One employee rides his bicycle five miles from Vineyard Mountain. The staff at Footwise makes Kara’s task as an ETC an easy one.
“We’re pretty green there, so I haven’t inspired anyone to actually use alternative transportation. I just try to lead them towards rewards, like signing up and recording their trips on DriveLessConnect. They are then eligible for prizes.” Karas went on to state that Footwise is one of many local companies that donate gift cards as prizes.
Samaritan Health Services at Avery Square is an example of an employer taking a very active role in getting its workers to drive less. About 650 employees work at the facility on NW 9th Street between Fillmore and Polk. Choosing alternative transportation is one of the important topics included in the orientation at the Avery location. Eric Cornelius stocks a display table with DriveLessConnect brochures, cards, and free bike maps. The facility also has an internal bike room which protects locked bicycles from the elements. According to Cornelius, five or six of the heartier bikers use the room year-round. In the warmer months, up to 20 staff members will pedal to work. One person actually rollerblades for their three-mile commute.
Most of the staff lives in Corvallis, Albany, Lebanon, or Philomath. However, the Avery Square facility does have commuters coming from as far away as Salem and Eugene. A carpool campaign has already been started.
Another Samaritan employee, Interactive Marketing Specialist John Norris, summed up the advantages of his commute.
“I enjoy biking round-trip from my home in Albany to Avery Square. Samaritan makes it very easy to secure my bike, use shower facilities, and get ready for work.”
The list of other employers taking active roles in alternative transportation includes Georgia Pacific, Entek Manufacturing, and Sarepta Therapeutics. Private companies are not alone in the campaign. Schools such as OSU, LBCC, and the 509J school district also have ETCs. The cities of Albany and Corvallis and the counties of Lincoln, Linn, and Benton are involved as well. The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Corvallis Sustainability Coalition, and even the USGS round out a list of organizations committed to helping us drive less.