The way to go 

Commuter Challenge returns for third year

The third annual Whistler Way Commuter Challenge is back, daring individuals and businesses to bike, walk, run, skate, carpool and vanpool to work for two weeks, from Wednesday, Sept. 22 (International Car Free Day) to Wednesday, Oct. 6 (International Walk to School Day).

All participants will be eligible once again to win a draw for a season’s pass to Whistler-Blackcomb or a one-year Meadow Park or Whistler Transit pass. New this year, the Fairmont Chateau Whistler will also be offering one night accommodation and dinner for two.

All you have to do to be eligible to win is to earn points by leaving your car at home and taking a more environmentally-friendly mode of transportation to work. You can win up to two spots in the draw, one for every 40 points you earn, and your points will be tracked by your company’s Commuter Challenge co-ordinator. Individual participants will be tracking their own numbers, so obviously there’s an honour system in place.

In addition, local businesses in different size categories will be able to earn recognition for most points (divided by the number of employees participating) and the most participation (number of workers at a business minus the number of Commuter Challenge participants).

The Rotary Club will once again kick off the challenge with a pancake breakfast, served at the Town Plaza Gazebo from 7 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. on Sept. 22. All registered participants are invited to take part.

Other activities planned for this year include a new speech contest for Whistler Secondary students, a bike cart relay in the village, a Spot the Councillor contest, and a cheap movie night – LUNA is hosting a drive-in movie at Base II on Sept. 30, which is just $2 for bikes and $10 for cars.

The goal of the Commuter Challenge is to get people to try alternatives to the single passenger vehicle. A survey after the first year discovered that a significant number of participants continued to use alternatives to the single passenger car in the weeks after the event. Of the 52 per cent of participants who used to drive alone before the Commuter Challenge, less than half continued to do so afterwards. According to a second survey that number went up again in the winter months, to about 36 per cent of all participants.

In Whistler, where studies show that 75 per cent of air contaminants and half of all greenhouse gas emissions are linked to transportation, any reduction is positive.

"Reducing the number of motor vehicles on the roads is becoming important to us as Whistler faces issues such as the degradation of our air quality," said Emma DalSanto, the municipal transportation demand management planner.

Last year more than 1,150 resort employees participated in the Commuter Challenge, a 25 per cent increase over the first year.

Organizers are expecting an even larger turnout this year, partly because of the active participation of the larger employees in town. Hotels, restaurants and other businesses have been actively challenging one other, making side wagers to see who can post the largest number of points and highest participation in each category.

Several groups have even managed to post 100 per cent participation, with each participant earning the maximum number of points.

Ralph Forsyth, who is co-ordinating this year’s event, is encouraging everyone to get involved this year.

"It’s easy to do," he said. "The only way you don’t get points is if you drive to and from work by yourself for the entire two weeks."

Every time you walk, bike, skate, bus or carpool with three or more people to work or home, you can receive four points, and up to eight points a day. If you car pool with one other person or take a motorcyle or moped to work and home again you earn two points per trip.

For more information, or to sign up as an individual or business, e-mail thewhistlerway@whistler.ca or call Ralph Forsyth at 604-935-8456. Registration forms are also available at municipal hall in the Reading Room.

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