The Clean Air Campaign promotes alternative commuting

Pamela King said she is excited about the year, 2012.

For her, it means a year of savings on her commute to work 40 miles from home. The McDonough resident said she is rejoining a carpool that could save her about $70 a week on gas.

King is an example officials with The Clean Air Campaign point to in urging other metro-Atlanta residents to try commute alternatives.

King works at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the College Park office. She said she started carpooling earlier this year. “I was looking at getting involved with a vanpool or carpool,” she said. “But the vanpools were full coming out of Henry County. So, the best option for me was carpooling.”

King carpools as a part of the alternative commutes programs. The not-for-profit Clean Air Campaign partners with the Georgia Department of Transportation in order to help commuters around the state find alternative commutes. The partnership is an effort to decrease traffic congestion and improve air quality.

The Clean Air Campaign offers carpool rewards, in which carpools consisting of three or more individuals can earn $40 to $60 in monthly gas cards. “It’s definitely worth it,” said King, who pays about $150 per week, filling up every other day when she is not participating in a carpool.

King said she moved to Henry County in 2008, and joined the FAA as a records assistant in its human resources department in 2010. “I had a smaller car, and gas prices were cheaper,” she said. “Since then, there have been a lot of changes that have impacted the 40-mile drive.”

The single mother of a 12-year-old son, and an adopted 5-year-old Shiba Inu-shepherd mix, said commuter-related expenses have piled up in just the short time she has worked for the FAA. “One of my biggest concerns was being without [my] car,” King said. “I can’t just pick up and go — if I got sick, or my son got sick. But in all the time I have carpooled, I haven’t had that problem.”

King pointed out that sharing the ride saves on gas, and car maintenance when driving duties are alternated. “The benefits, financially, are worth it, and it really relieves the stress of driving in traffic,” she said. “It’s worth the inconvenience of not having your own vehicle all the time.”

Officials with The Clean Air Campaign are urging other metro Atlanta residents to follow suit and consider changing their habits. “Not only do commute options help commuters put money back in their pockets, they also reduce air pollution and traffic congestion,” said Tedra Cheatham, executive director of The Clean Air Campaign.

The campaign works with more than 1,600 Georgia employers, tens of thousands of commuters and more than 300 (K-12) primary and secondary schools to encourage actions that result in less traffic congestion and better air quality.

“By using our programs and tools to track their commute trips, commuters can see their progress toward saving money and helping the environment throughout the year,” said Cheatham.

The campaign creates customized commute-options programs for employers; provides assistance and financial incentives to commuters that enable the use of commute alternatives; and empowers students, parents and teachers to play a positive role in reducing traffic and improving air quality through an action-oriented school program.

Area motorists can take part in the program by choosing to walk or bicycle to work, or while running errands. They report that more than 25 percent of auto trips are less than a mile in length.

The campaign also suggests joining a carpool or vanpool to work. Commuters can get assistance finding carpool or vanpool partners, who live and work nearby, at www.LogYourCommute.org.

Officials with the organization also note that taking transit can help cut down on costs associated with fuel, vehicle maintenance and parking fees. They also point to teleworking, or working from, or near, home, as a way to save time and money.

In addition to money saved by choosing a clean commute, Commuter Rewards, a statewide commuter incentive program, offers money to commuters who ditch the solo drive, including $3 a day –– up to $100 –– and gas cards worth up to $60. To date, more than 85,000 Georgians have joined, earning cash, gift cards and gas cards.

To learn more about the Clean Air Campaign, visit CleanAirCampaign.org.