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Whistler workers leave cars at home

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Commuter Challenge makes conservation a friendly competition

Whistler workers outdid themselves this year in the second annual Whistler Way Commuter Challenge, with more individuals and businesses participating and putting in a solid effort to take alternative forms of transportation in a two-week period.

The idea, according to municipal traffic demand management co-ordinator Emma DalSanto, was to create a fun contest that forced people to give up their single occupant vehicles and walk, bike, bus and carpool to work. The contest was run over two weeks, from Sept. 17 to 30, giving participants a chance to get used to alternatives. People don’t change their habits overnight.

"We want people to try something new and see that there are other options (to the single passenger vehicle) that might actually work better for certain trips," said DalSanto.

The Commuter Challenge organizers sweetened the deal by offering participants a chance to win a season’s pass for Whistler-Blackcomb, a one-year family membership at Meadow Park Sport Centre, and other prizes.

Businesses are also presented awards for participation, and many busineses issued challenges to one another to make the competition more interesting.

This season more than 1,150 Whistler employees participated, 25 per cent more than last year, and the number of participating businesses increased to 72 from 65.

Individuals could earn up to eight points a day, four points per trip, by walking, cycling, taking the bus or being part of a car pool with three or more people. People could also earn two points per trip by being part of a carpool with two people.

A person had to earn 40 points for one draw prize entry, and 80 points, the maximum, for a second entry.

The Whistler-Blackcomb season’s pass went to Surinder Singh of the Delta Whistler Resort. Jim Flichel of Whistler-Blackcomb won the Meadow Park membership. Dani Cotes from the Grocery Store won the annual WAVE pass. Jenn Keefer won a $100 gift certificate to the Rimrock for participating in the MarketPlace Challenge Draw, organized by Jim Watts of FastPark. John Ward won the Spot the Councilor draw for spotting Councillor Ken Melamed on his bike, earning a $50 gift certificate to Zeuski’s.

In the large business category (100 employees or more), the Delta Whistler Resort won the award with 54 per cent of all employees participating.

Delta Whistler Village Suites won the large business award for the highest percentage of possible points earned, based on the number of participants, with 95 per cent.

In the medium business category (10 to 99 employees), it was a six-way tie for first, with 100 per cent of employees at Moguls Café Inc, the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, Rainbow Retreats Accommodation Ltd., RBC Royal Bank and the North Shore Credit Union taking part in the Commuter Challenge. This was the second year in a row that the RBC Royal Bank managed 100 per cent participation.

Moguls won the award for the highest percentage of possible points with 100 per cent.

In the Small Business category (1 to 9 employees), 12 businesses had 100 per cent participation; Whistler Housing Authority, Hostelling International, Cows, Rogers Chocolates, Whistler Chamber of Commerce, Love Nest, Whistler Cooks Catering Co., Whistler Eye Clinic, Brent Harley and Associates, Cascade Environmental, Whistler Chiropractic and the Body Shop.

The Whistler Housing Authority, Hostelling International, Whistler Eye Clinic, Brent Harley and Associates, Cascade Environmental, and Whistler Chiropractic also had 100 per cent participation last year.

The Whistler Housing Authority won the points game, earning 99 per cent of all possible points.

Prior to this year’s Commuter Challenge, Roasemary Cook of the Crystal Lodge issued a challenge to the GM’s of Whistler hotels to participate. Bruce Van Mook of Blackcomb Lodge, Ken Cretney from the Delta Whistler Resort, Diana Lyons from the Delta Whistler Village Suites, Anita McGee from the Holiday Inn Sunspree and Gordon McKeever of Rainbow Retreats stepped up to the challenge, earning a minimum of 40 points over two weeks.

The Hotel Sector Challenge went to Rainbow Retreats with 100 per cent staff participation and 90.31 per cent of all possible points. They won a staff party in a Whistler park.

Other participating hotels included the Blackcomb Lodge, Holiday Inn Sunspree, Legends, Delta Whistler Village Suites, Crystal Lodge, Delta Whistler Resort, Best Western Listel Hotel, Whiski Jack Resorts, ResortQuest Whistler, Fairmont Chateau Whistler, Westin Resort and Spa, Club Intrawest, Whistler Resort Management Ltd., and Coast Whistler Hotel.

"The hotels were a new focus for us this year," said DalSanto. "We looked at the data from last year to see where the holes were, and the hotel sector was the biggest by far. We contacted them early to give them enough time to get involved, and they really took to it. Both awards for large businesses went to Delta hotels."

More businesses are starting to challenge each other and hold side bets, which DalSanto says is a good sign that people are getting into the spirit of the Commuter Challenge.

Businesses that have participated in both years generally saw improvement this year in terms of the number of participants and the percentage of points earned. In addition, businesses that made infrastructure changes, such as placing bike racks in secure locations, also saw improved participation.

In two months, the Whistler Way will conduct a follow-up survey to determine what impact the Commuter Challenge has had on investors. According to last year’s poll of Challenge participants, the number of participants who typically drive single passenger vehicles dropped off significantly during the Challenge, and only increased slightly again once the contest was over.

Another study in February found that the percentage of drivers in single passenger vehicles increased once again, but still remained below the original number.

"That shows that the Commuter Challenge is having an effect on people said DalSanto.

The Whistler Way will once again poll participants in this year’s challenge, as well as study the results to see where they can make the biggest difference next year. One area that DalSanto wants to target is the restaurant sector.

To see how your business did in the 2003 Commuter Challenge, the complete results are posted on the RMOW Web site at www.whistler.ca.

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