Jeff Gulley, who works at UMB Bank, biked to the River Market as part of the Get Moving event on Sept. 21. Green Commute Challenge participants were encouraged to walk or bike to a nearby restaurant instead of driving there.
Commuters from local companies saved enough miles during the Mid-America Regional Council’s fifth annual Green Commute Challenge to drive Interstate 70 from Kansas City to New York City — and back — nearly 669 times.
This year’s challenge ran from July 9 through Sept. 28 and was presented by MARC's RideShare and Air Quality programs. The Green Commute Challenge encourages employees of participating organizations to help take cars off roads by using alternative transportation for their daily commutes, like carpooling, bicycling and riding the bus. It’s a fun way for employers and commuters to address air quality and gas prices during hot summer weather and peak travel season.
The 30 teams and 970 people who competed in the Green Commute Challenge:
- cut 796,678 miles of driving,
- prevented 768,589 pounds of ozone-forming and greenhouse gases, and
- saved $167,302 in driving costs.
Teams from three employers rose to the top of the ranks based on most total points:
- Small employer category – Rees Masilionis Turley Architecture
- Medium employer category – Stinson Morrison Hecker LLP
- Large employer category – UMB Bank
The three-month challenge was broken into themes focusing on the environmental, interpersonal and health benefits of alternative transportation.
July – Take Care of Our Air. Fewer vehicles on the road reduces traffic congestion and ozone-forming emissions. Participants helped make air in the Kansas City area healthier for everyone to breathe.
Buddy Winheim who works at MRI Global recognizes the environmental and economic impacts of sharing a ride to work. “I like commuting [by carpool] because it is good for the environment and reduces the monthly expenses for traveling to and from work,” he said.
August – Make Connections. There's more to choosing alternative modes of transportation than just saving money. Many participants made new friends while carpooling and riding the bus.
"What I like best about carpooling is the company,” said Hallmark employee Sally Anderson. “I really enjoy the conversations."
September – Get Moving. Active modes of transportation, like biking and walking, can help people manage their weight and stress leading to a healthier lifestyle.
Kenneth Bilderback bicycled to his job at the city of Overland Park. “By adding a few more minutes to my commute, I am able to get my workout in for the day, which allows me more family time later in the day,” he explained.
The winning teams will be recognized at an awards luncheon on Oct. 26 at the Gladstone Community Center. Final contest results
The 2012 Green Commute Challenge was sponsored by UMB Bank, Commerce Bank, vRide, Foth, Gastinger Walker Harden + BeeTriplett and Stinson Morrison Hecker LLP.
City of Shawnee team coordinators
What does it take to get people to sign up for the Green Commute Challenge and hold their interest for three months? Talking to people and tailoring events and rewards for your team, say Katie Killen and Jonathan Wiles, who work for the city of Shawnee.
Killen chairs the city’s Green Team, and Wiles is a Public Works representative on the team. The two coordinated the city’s employee team that participated in this year’s Green Commute Challenge, run by the Mid-America Regional Council’s RideShare and Air Quality programs.
Each event Killen and Wiles planned during the three-month contest was designed to win points for the team as well as earn internal points through the city’s Shape Up Shawnee wellness program. (City employees have an opportunity to win a $100 bonus by earning points through their wellness program.) The city also offered its own prizes in addition to those the Green Commute Challenge gave away.
Examples of the city's promotions:
- Gift certificate drawings rewarded employees who signed up to participate by Aug. 10.
- Those who logged trips at least seven times got to enjoy a free ice cream bar or dairy-free treat to cool off in early August.
- Two winners who logged points at least three times a week after Aug. 10 for the rest of the challenge could “Snooze or Cruise.” Snoozers could come to work later and cruisers could leave work early.
- Several walk/carpool to lunch days allowed participants to visit local restaurants and earn points.
- A potluck picnic in the council chambers of city hall invited employees to earn a point for the team by staying in for lunch.
- “Bagels and Bananas” was a special treat for those who biked or walked one week.
- A city personnel policy allowed employees who rode their bicycles to work to wear jeans unless they had a uniform requirement.
- A no-spill gas can was the prize for a drawing of those who had their gas cap checked.
- The employee with the most points overall at the end of the challenge won a city of Shawnee polo shirt.
- The city played on the Green Commute Challenge’s “Get Moving" theme in September by featuring a lunch-and-learn event on active lifestyles, which earned bikers and walkers a wellness point and a free pedometer for attending.
Having the support of upper management is a big key to success, Killen and Wiles said. The city manager and deputy city manager were on board and attended events. Even though the city of Shawnee facilities are spread out over nine locations, events at city hall were well attended by employees from other locations.
Thirty-five employees signed up for the city of Shawnee’s team this year — more than last year. The team came in third place in the medium-sized employers category. Killen and Wiles are already planning what they'll do to promote the Green Commute Challenge next year.
Want to be featured in our commuter profile series? Contact Darrin Dressler at 816-842-RIDE (7433).
Johnson County Transit plans to eliminate several of the county system’s bus routes starting in Jan. 3, 2013 due to a budget crunch resulting from reductions in state and federal funding. It also will modify and operate reduced service levels on four other routes that were initially proposed to be cut.
The eliminated routes are 676 Paola–Spring Hill–Olathe, 810 De Soto FlexRide and 816 Spring Hill Shuttle. These routes had low ridership. Although 677R Downtown–Olathe and 669I KCK–Lenexa–Olathe are being eliminated, parts of both routes will be accessible by extending the 546D Johnson–Quivira. Rough schedules have been drawn up, but will not be finalized and available for the public until Nov. 15.
Johnson County Transit officials said they may need to make more cuts to balance the 2014 budget.
In addition, the transit agency recently held public meetings to discuss proposed fare increases. This proposal would gradually increase the 710 – K-10 Connector route fare from $3 to $4 between January and July 2013. It would also increase fares on all other The JO routes by 20 percent beginning July 1, 2013, which would have an impact on the cost of multiride passes as well.
Commuters can submit feedback on the fare proposal through Nov. 14.
Proposed fare increase details
As of Oct. 1, the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority adjusted service schedules on a number of bus routes as part of the Metro2012 package of changes. The first and second rounds of changes occurred in April and July 2012. These changes are intended to create a more efficient network of transit routes, while providing a public transportation system that is easier for customers to use. Several routes are being streamlined to provide more direct service and reduce the need for customers to transfer.
Rendering of transit center improvements at 47th Street and State Avenue (Kansas City, Kan.)
KCK Metrocenter groundbreaking event on
The Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kan., and the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority broke ground Sept. 19 on what will be the region's largest transit center on State Avenue at 47th Street, the site of the former Indian Springs Shopping Center.
The 11,000 square foot transit center will open in late 2013 with room for eight buses and a rest station for bus drivers. It will also be the new home for the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department’s Midtown Patrol, the Wyandotte/ Leavenworth Area Agency on Aging offices, and space for community meetings and activities.
Unified Government operations are currently the only thing still open in the mall, which will be torn down. Local officials hope this project will be a catalyst for future mixed-use economic development.
"Day in and day out, the folks on our bus system are Wyandotte County residents going to and from work,” said Unified Government Mayor Joe Reardon. “It's an essential service that we provide to make sure people can get out there, get to their jobs, get to their careers, and raise their family every day in our community. From day one, it will be greatly used and appreciated.”
The $10.5 million bus-enhancement project is funded primarily through a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Additional funds are being provided by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s livability grants and the Unified Government.