Companies lay down gauntlet for Commuter Challenge 

Post-challenge survey last year shows some people changed their commuter habits

Friendly competition is making this year’s Commuter Challenge a little more interesting, according to Christina Swerhun, the municipality’s traffic demand management workplace co-ordinator.

"We’ve really tried to focus on the bigger employers like hotels this year," said Swerhun. "A lot of the people are coming back who participated last year already, but if I have time I’m going to start cold-calling those companies to make sure they know about it."

Most of the hotels have agreed to take part, which Swerhun believes could push the number of participants up to more than 1,200, more than 300 more than participated in the first two-week Commuter Challenge last year.

The Commuter Challenge gets people onto alternative modes of transportation, awarding points to people who make an effort to leave their car at home, or use it for carpooling. At the end of the two weeks, the businesses with the highest percentage of participation and most points are recognized by the community. The individual participants who have amassed more than 40 points over the two weeks are entered into a draw with prizes like a season’s pass for Whistler-Blackcomb, an annual family season pass for Meadow Park Sport Centre, and a year of free transit with Whistler and Valley Express.

The few participants that get 80 points or more over the two weeks will be entered into the draw twice.

So far the Royal Bank has challenged the other financial institutions in town to a side contest.

The hotels are competing against one another and Rosemary Cook, the general manager of the Crystal Lodge, has challenged the other hotel GM’s to make a minimum of 65 points.

Even Whistler Council is getting into the act, with Gordon McKeever challenging other members of council to a contest to see who gets the most points.

"We’ve been looking for ways to get more people involved," said Swerhun, "and so far the best way has been to get businesses and individuals to challenge each other. I don’t know if that’s a Whistler thing or what, but it’s definitely working."

To help businesses to organize car and van pools, something that has worked for several local businesses, Swerhun is directing them to the Jack Bell Foundation’s RideShare program, where people can post some basic information and get paired up with other carpoolers.

As the workplace co-ordinator for the municipality’s traffic demand management program, Swerhun says that businesses are generally very co-operative, and willing to try alternatives.

Studies have shown that taking alternative forms of transportation rather than single passenger vehicles makes sense economically, environmentally and socially, said Swerhun.

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