By Mary Stevens Decker
In burgeoning Eastside cities such as Redmond, Bellevue, Kirkland and Sammamish, there are better ways to get to work, school or the grocery store than driving alone.
Most people know there are alternatives — walking, biking, carpooling or riding the bus. And most understand the benefits, such as saving money, getting more exercise and reducing carbon emissions. But frankly, many are too intimidated by the logistical planning.
Meet R-Trip (Redmond Trip Resource & Incentive Program).
This comprehensive city of Redmond program helps both workers and residents zip through the process of identifying modes of transportation that suit their personal needs, yet benefit the entire region.
Through partnerships with the Greater Redmond Transportation Management Association (GRTMA), Greater Redmond Chamber of Commerce, King County Metro Transit and Sound Transit, R-Trip staff members incentivize employers to promote trip reduction. Giving employees free or discounted transit passes, flexible work schedules, increased bicycle parking or even bicycle jerseys can reduce workers’ tension, which in turn, increases productivity, lowers health care costs and improves the environment for everyone.
“The set menu is, ‘Try it, you’ll like it. Then you’ll want to do it more,’” explained Erika Vandenbrande, transportation demand manager for the city of Redmond.
R-Trip offers subsidies for vanpool riders, cash rewards for workers or residents who bike or walk as often as possible and grants to employers who want to initiate or enhance trip reduction programs.
“Typically, when employees see parking issues, that’s where the light bulb goes on for employers,” said Vandenbrande. “Do we build more parking or offer employees a transit pass?”
R-Trip literature can be found online, at www.GOrtrip.com.
“And we do lots of transportation events, in company cafeterias at lunch hour,” said Jill Smith, business commute program coordinator for the city of Redmond.
“This is free to employers,” Smith noted. “There’s nothing to lose. And we literally walk the streets to talk to people about the trip reduction programs. Downtown Redmond and Willows Road were our big push this summer. Employees wished for more bus service there, more car and vanpools.”
Vandenbrande agreed, “It’s a multi-tiered approach. Large employers are subject to state trip reduction laws.”
Thus, Microsoft is on-board with its own fleet of buses and vans. Other big corporations such as Honeywell, Aerojet, Astronics and PhysioControl also help workers consolidate or eliminate driving trips.
But trip reduction has to go beyond that.
“Now, smaller businesses are hearing people say they hate their commute, they’re late because of the traffic,” said Vandenbrande.
She said Redmond Mayor John Marchione and the current Redmond City Council have been staunchly supportive of trip reduction measures first introduced during former Mayor Rosemarie Ives administration, in line with the strategic vision of linking two thriving urban neighborhoods, Downtown and Overlake.
“To have two vital urban centers, you can’t have a patchwork of parking cars superimposed on top of it,” said Vandenbrande. “By 2021, we hope to have light rail in Overlake and the city is pushing to bring that to Downtown.”
That’s not fast enough for the legions of frustrated commuters who need to get across Redmond or the Eastside today.
Determined to set the pace, the city of Redmond encourages its own employees to use alternative means of transportation and has hired a new part-time R-Trip coordinator, Kim Keeling, to educate colleagues about ride shares, loaner bikes and walking routes.
R-Trip’s Bicycling Guide and Transit Map takes guess work out of how to get around Redmond and neighboring cities. And R-Trip staff members are producing videos and other educational materials to address the most basic questions such as “how to ride the bus” or “how to put your bike on the bus,” said Smith. “It’s easier than people think.”
Another misconception is that once you commit to an alternative commute plan, you have to stick with it 100 percent of the time.
Not true, said Smith.
Walking, biking, carpooling or riding the bus even one day a week makes a difference.
Mary Stevens Decker is a reporter for the Redmond Reporter. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Mary Stevens Decker