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CommuteCon 2018

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Smart Commuting with the City of Austin

Cari Buetow
Environmental Program Coordinator
City of Austin, Austin Transportation Department

Session Description

Cari Buetow is an environmental program coordinator with the Austin Transportation Department. She works for the City of Austin, and joined us to talk about a new program its municipal government is introducing as part of its effort to ease gridlock.

Austin is a fast-growing municipality, and the city has experienced a recent surge in traffic congestion as its swelling population competes for road space. About 100 people move to Austin every day, bringing 70 more vehicles into the city. Motor vehicles are now the city’s leading source of air pollution.

The City of Austin has taken strong steps toward providing its employee base of more than 13,000 people with sustainable, smart transportation alternatives. It provides:

  • Free transit passes and bicycle memberships
  • Work-from-home opportunities
  • Compressed and flexible work schedules
  • Reduced vanpool rates
  • Carpool matching programs
  • Showers and facilities for active commuters (walking, jogging, cycling)
  • Incentives and rewards
  • Free training and consultation services for individuals who want to help make a difference and save money by adopting smarter commuting habits

Buetow stresses that one of the most effective rewards she has found is a city program that allows employees to accrue paid time off for logging commutes using approved modes of sustainable transportation. Employees can earn a half-day of paid time off for every 44 trips they log, which translates to one day of smart commuting per week over a 22-week period. Making a major commitment to smart commuting allows city employees to earn up to two full bonus days of paid time off every four months or so, which Buetow has found to be a major motivator.

The program also offers many other perks, which are designed to encourage wider and more robust rates of participation. Limited-time contests offering rewards like gift cards to major retailers helped draw more people in. Many of these new participants continued to use alternative modes of transportation after contests closed, largely because they found out about the chance to earn further benefits like paid administrative leave and other rewards.

The City of Austin’s Smart Commute Austin program has been a resounding success, and you can learn more about it by viewing Buetow’s full presentation.