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Want to carpool? Group will pay you

POSTED: April 29, 2009 12:19 a.m.
TOM REED/The Times

Cars fill the intersection of E.E. Butler and Jesse Jewell parkways. As part of Air Quality Week in Georgia, a push is on to encourage people to carpool to cut down on the number of cars on the road.

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Clean commuting is not only good for the environment, but for your wallet, too.

This week is Air Quality Awareness Week in Georgia, and the Clean Air Campaign hopes people will try walking, biking, carpooling or taking public transit to get to work.

"If somebody hasn’t tried a clean commute yet but kind of wants to see what it’s about and give it a try, we’ll actually pay that person to just try it," said Sarah Waters, a spokeswoman for the Clean Air Campaign, a nonprofit group dedicated to improving air quality and reducing traffic congestion. "Our ultimate goal is to get cars off the road. And getting cars off the road, we get pollution out of the air."

Cash for Commuters is a program that allows participants to log their clean commutes for 90 days and receive $3 per trip and up to $100.

Waters said the financial reward has been an effective way to get people out of their old habits of driving to work alone.

"We’ve actually found that of those people who try the Cash for Commuters program, over 60 percent who give it a try during those initial 90 days stick with it," Waters said. "A lot of people think it’s going to be hard but they may try it just to get this money, and they realize it’s really, really easy."

According to Brian Carr, director of communications for the Clean Air Campaign, roughly 84 percent of people in metro Atlanta drive alone to work each day, and the average commute is 40 miles.

"Tail pipes account for a significant proportion of our air quality challenges," Carr said.

Ground level ozone is created by nitrogen oxides and particulate matter from tail pipes. It is accelerated by sunlight and warm air, making the months from May to September the highest level of ozone.

"It can create some really severe respiratory problems," Carr said. "In the smoggiest cities in the country, a study found that people were three times more likely to die from respiratory causes."

Michelle Calderon, an Oakwood resident who works in Atlanta, started taking a bus to work in January.

"I currently work for Emory at Grady," Calderon said. "I dreaded the commute every day. I loved the job but I was miserable because of the commute."

Calderon said she found many benefits from trying a clean commute beside the money.

"I don’t have to worry about the traffic; I can sleep on the bus; I’m saving tons on gas money and maintenance on my car," Calderon said. "I couldn’t ask for anything more."

Though there are many positives to her new mode of transportation, it took time to get used to.

"At first it does take some adjusting. You’re not driving yourself, and you have a little less control," Calderon said.

Waters said many in outlying counties such as Hall may assume driving is the only way to commute, but vanpools, carpools and buses currently are running in Hall County.

"We want people to know there are other options," Waters said.



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