Companies lay down gauntlet for Commuter Challenge 

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At the same time, people do become dependent on their cars to the point that they don’t know what they would do without them. The Commuter Challenge, which was originally a one-day event, was extended to two weeks to give car owners a better idea of how much money they could save, and get used to the idea of car pooling, biking or walking to work, or carpooling.

The program is also designed to change corporate culture, getting businesses to consider the idea of subsidizing transit instead of paying for parking stalls.

A survey of last year’s participants showed that a number of people continued to take alternative forms of transportation after the two weeks was over, even though many returned to their cars.

While the survey of just ver 120 participants is by no means scientific, said Swerhun, it does show that the Commuter Challenge can work.

According to the survey, 52 per cent of Commuter Challenge participants drove alone before the program got underway on Sept. 19. During the Commuter Challenge, from Sept. 19 to Oct. 2, that number dropped to 12 per cent.

A few weeks later, the number of single drivers rose again to 23 per cent. It rose again in February of 2002 to 36 per cent, but remained below the earlier high of 52 per cent.

"Some of those drivers were obviously keeners because they took the time to fill out the survey, but even so a significant number of them did change their patterns," said Swehun.

Although locals tend to blame visitors for the large number of cars on the roads in Whistler, a municipal study found that more than 50 per cent of the greenhouse gases caused by transportation in the corridor are produced by local vehicles.

"This is an opportunity to lead by example," said Swerhun. "When in Rome, you do as the Romans do. If visitors see us leaving our cars at home and riding our bikes or whatever, maybe they’ll park their cars as well."

This year the Commuter Challenge will run from Sept. 17 to 30. Pre-registration for the event closed on Sept. 15, although you can still register at the official launch on Sept. 17.

Every time a participant commutes to work and home again by foot, inline skates, bike, bus, doubling on a motorcycle or tripling up in a car or van pool they get four points, for a maximum of eight points each day. Every time they ride in a two-person car or van pool, or alone on a motorcycle, a participant gets two points.

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