Business Gains Against Commuter Pollution

by RaeAnne Marsh

Car-PollutionThe Maricopa County Trip Reduction Program’s recently released figures show 12,038 tons of pollution were saved by commuters in fiscal year 2014. “With improved air quality, our region benefits,” says Neil Yockey, environmental program manager, pointing out that not only does air quality factor into quality-of-life attractiveness but not meeting federal standards may result in loss of significant federal highway funds. The Maricopa Association of Governments estimates Maricopa County residents currently drive nearly 80 million miles each day, and projects that number to grow to about 140 million by 2030 — so in spite of advances in cleaner vehicles and fuels, MAG anticipates that vehicles will continue to be a major source of air pollution.

Arizona law requires businesses operating in Maricopa County that have 50 or more employees at a single work site to participate in TRP, which consists of making a “good-faith effort” to conduct a survey among the employees as to their method of transportation — although there is not corresponding requirement on the employee to participate in the survey. Nevertheless, the program continues to be successful. Nearly 740,000 employees and students participated in the survey in FY2014, encompassing 1,185 employers at 3,034 work and school sites. The number of miles reduced in daily commuting for that year is not yet available, but similar figures in FY2013 yielded more than 4 million single-occupant-vehicle miles.

“We measure and count the number of trips saved and the number of miles saved,” Yockey explains. The focus is on the heavy commute times of day, as the higher the congestion, the higher the levels of pollution being emitted. TRP’s outreach and training services include working with employers to help them develop programs to incentivize employees, such as paying part or all of the cost of a bus pass or encouraging carpooling. “The most successful ones are where the highest-ranking local [company] official embraces the program,” Yockey says.

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