Atlanta Program Steering the Way People Get to Work

Atlanta Program Steering the Way People Get to Work

Cash for Commuters, the regional financial incentive program offered by The Clean Air Campaign, is changing the way metro Atlantans get to work -- one commuter at a time.

According to two surveys of Cash for Commuters participants prepared recently by the Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE) on behalf of the Georgia Department of Transportation, once commuters are motivated to give up their solo commutes, the vast majority continue to use alternatives. This research indicates that getting people to try a commute alternative -- and paying them to do it -- pays off in both the short term and, more importantly, in the long term.

The first survey questioned participants who had taken part in the initial launch of Cash for Commuters (October 2002 - February 2003). The second survey involved participants from the second offering (May - December 2003). Both surveys were conducted in April 2004, and revealed that of participants who had completed the program three to six months earlier, 74% continue to use a commute alternative, when no incentive is available to them. Of participants who had completed the program nine months to one year earlier, 64% continue to use a commute alternative.

"These results are exciting for several reasons," said Ellen Macht, executive director of The Clean Air Campaign. "First, we're seeing at least as many, if not more people continue to use the program in the short-term after the incentive ends -- in last year's survey of the three to six month group, 71% continued to use an alternative. Also, this is the first time we've been able to survey a group that was a full year out of the program, and the fact that so many are still using alternatives really validates the program and the benefits of commute alternatives.

Macht continued, "Finally, even among those who went back to driving alone, most abandoned the change primarily due to factors out of their control, such as losing a carpool partner or changes in work schedules, not because they wanted to go back to sitting alone in traffic."

The vast majority of the former Cash for Commuter participants gave up their solo commute in favor of carpooling, with 68% of both groups carpooling during the three-month incentive phase. Transit was the second most used alternative, followed by telework and bike/walk.

Since its initial launch in October 2002, more than 5,000 metro Atlantans have participated in Cash for Commuters. CTE estimates that Cash for Commuters participants in the first two waves have reduced more than 3,000 vehicle trips each day, adding up to a total of more than 19.5 million miles off metro roads from the initial launch through April 2004. These changes also mean tons of smog-forming emissions have been kept out of metro Atlanta's air.

Cash for Commuters is the only financial incentive program in the country that pays cash directly to consumers for using alternative transportation. To qualify for Cash for Commuters, residents must not have used an alternative to driving alone -- for their work commute -- more than five times in the last 90 days. Commuters must live or work in the 13-county metro Atlanta nonattainment area. Once registered, commuters earn three dollars ($3.00) cash for each day they use a qualified commute alternative to travel to and from work within a 90-consecutive day period.

Enrollment for Cash for Commuters is open until September 30 or until the program reaches its maximum enrollment of 2,500. Commuters can download a registration form and Rules of Eligibility online.