4 VT Towns Chosen for Smart Commute

Vital Communities has announced it will partner with the towns of Bradford, Hartford, Norwich, and Windsor, Vermont, to launch a new version of its successful Smart Commute program this spring: Smart Commute Home Edition. The new initiative will help towns develop programs and promotional campaigns to encourage commuters to drive alone less.

“Upper Valley commuters have collectively saved millions of dollars each year thanks to new carpooling, transit, cycling, and walking initiatives that we’ve worked with major employers to develop,” says Transportation Program Manager Aaron Brown. “We’re excited to see what additional savings can occur when we partner with towns to help their residents at the starting point of their commutes.”

In addition to receiving consultation from Vital Communities on new transportation programs, the towns selected for Smart Commute Home Edition will receive a $500 community grant from the Vermont Agency of Transportation’s Go! Vermont program. Ross MacDonald, manager of the Go Vermont program, says “Vital Communities has a strong history of successfully moving the Upper Valley toward a more sustainable transportation future. VTrans is excited to partner with them and four towns to promote smart commuting options.” Vital Communities received additional support for the project from the Canaday Family Foundation.

“During the last twenty years, Downtown White River Junction has been experiencing an economic resurgence. However, there is limited land area and parking in the downtown,” says Hartford Town Planner Matt Osborn. “As a result, transportation demand management is an important part of continued revitalization and a solution to avoid a future parking problem. This fits in with the vision of the Smart Commute Home Edition program.”

Several chosen towns also highlight how Smart Commute Home Edition can help their efforts to write new town master plans. Bradford Planning Commission Chair Justin Klarich says, “We are in the midst of updating the Town Plan, and I can whole heartedly say that a survey would most definitely be valuable information in this update. Any information could help forge recommendations and even town policy statements in our Town Plan that could in turn be used for grant proposals.”

Vital Communities’ Smart Commute Upper Valley program has provided one-on-one consulting to more than 30 workplaces since its inception in 2009. Participating employers have initiated a range of projects, from installing bike racks and electric vehicle charging stations to funding new bus services.

Hypertherm Benefits

Hypertherm has rolled out some new benefits this January for smart commuting. Employees who drive a carpool, walk, or bike will receive $5 a day and carpool passengers will get $2.50. Along with the monetary incentive, carpools have designated preferred parking spots. For those who take public transit to work, Hypertherm will give employees free tokens to pay for their ride.

If it is time to replace a vehicle, Hypertherm will reimburse current associates $500 for the purchase or lease of a new or used, hybrid or conventional auto that gets 40mpg or better.

There are more reasons than ever for Hypertherm employees to branch out and try new ways of getting to and from work each day. They can save money and earn money!

Walk to Work

Smart Commute participants Sally McEwen and Anne D’Avenni of Mascoma Savings Bank both walk to work in Lebanon. Anne walks two or three times a week and it is about a mile round trip for her. Sally has been walking to work since she joined the bank in 1969. She has about a mile and half round trip. Both Sally and Anne supplement their morning walk with a brisk lunch time walk on the rail trail or around town. Mascoma Savings Bank joined the Smart Commute Project to encourage other employees to choose a healthy, affordable commute. The bank continues to encourage healthy lifestyles and going green with the development of a wellness committee. There has been a shift from driving alone to walking. Many employees share fitness classes and walk on breaks and lunches.

Carpooling to White River Junction

Terri and Brenda from Mascoma Savings Bank have been carpooling for the last 3 years – motivated by the ever increasing gas prices and a 50+ mile roundtrip commute from Sunapee to White River Junction. Originally there were two of them who both lived in Sunapee and worked at Mascoma Savings Bank. As winter approached, Terri and her colleague had another employee ask to join their carpool. The three of them commuted through the winter. Terri and Brenda continue to carpool, and it has worked out very well for the both of them. “We carpool about 90% of the time,” Terri says, “and it has worked out well.  In addition to saving money on gas & wear and tear on our vehicles – we enjoy having company on the commute and it makes the time go by more quickly”.

Biking to Cover

Hugh rides his bike to work three to four times a week. He catches a ride to the Norwich Park & Ride from his home in Thetford and rides his bike in to his office year round. That’s right. All year round. During the snowy season, he puts “snow tires” on his bike. The tires are knobby mountain bike tires with studs. Hugh knows there are other year round riders out there too; he sees their tracks.

Most important to biking to work, any time of year, is to make yourself visible to drivers. Hugh recommends a bright headlight in the front, and a flashing red light in the back. Reflective jackets are essential too. Hugh even got a helmet liner; it is not only bright orange, but it keeps the cold air out of those holes in the helmet. For Hugh, the benefits of riding his bike to work include “not putting more CO2 in the air.” And he describes himself as some one who needs to move, and riding his bike the 6 1/2 miles each way provides him with exercise for his body and spirit!

Commuting by Bus

Kristi Veverka, Hypertherm employee, committed to try taking the Connecticut River Transit bus to work last summer. Although she was “really feeling out of my comfort zone” on the first day — she got lots of help and advice from other bus riders. Since then Kristi has striving to ride the bus 5  times a week. Kristi says, “I find riding the bus so relaxing. I am taking a class right now and have lots of reading to do so the bus gives me a perfect opportunity to get a couple of hours of reading in each day. I would have a hard time doing that otherwise. Also, I purchased an i-Pad and it is awesome on the bus. I have 3G coverage almost the entire ride. The money I save on riding the bus more than pays the monthly cost to have the i-Pad.”

Hypertherm pays for 50% of Kristi’s bus fare. Kristi still needs to drive 5 miles each way to the Park & Ride at exit 8, but she saves driving the 38 miles every time she takes the bus in to work.  Other Hypertherm associates also ride the bus, Tony Bertone, Barbara Churchill, Scott Hagland and Jeff Page, and  there is room for more.

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