December 03, 2008

CommuteSmart names UAB Smart Innovator for 2008

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For the past 10 years, UAB’s partnership with CommuteSmart has been as close to perfect as any collaboration can be.

Kim Fort knows perfection is not a goal that is attained easily – particularly in the area of partnerships and collaborations.

Linda Roberson arrives at work as part of Joyce Kanute’s CommuteSmart vanpool. The nine-person group travels together to campus from Hayden.
But for the past 10 years, UAB’s partnership with CommuteSmart has been as close to perfect as any collaboration can be. That is one reason UAB recently was recognized by the organization as its 2008 Smart Innovator Award winner for large corporations for exemplary commitment to reducing emissions through outstanding commute-options programs.

“We are thrilled that CommuteSmart thinks enough of our programs to select the university for this award,” says Fort, director of Transportation. “We’ve had a fantastic relationship with CommuteSmart for 10 years now, and we’ve been working with them to improve information on campus for our employees, increasing their ability to participate in various programs. I think it’s been a great advantage for UAB and CommuteSmart.”

The award was given as part of the Ala-bama Partners for Clean Air’s 2008 Air Aware Awards program, which recognizes area employers and individuals for their commitment to improving air quality. UAB was among 15 Birmingham-area businesses selected by the Alabama Partners for Clean Air and CommuteSmart to receive an award, further establishing the university as a community leader in alleviating traffic and providing efficient commuting options to its employees.

CommuteSmart has programs for those who bike, walk or drive to campus as part of a carpool. UAB worked throughout this year with CommuteSmart to promote its programs, creating a biking brochure, hosting a bike fair for students and enlisting CommuteSmart to help sponsor the successful Walk UAB! Challenge during the summer.

“CommuteSmart determined we were their Smart Innovator for 2008 because of the success of these programs,” Fort says. “The great thing about CommuteSmart is that they are very involved and committed to reducing traffic and developing well-organized options for commuters. They provide wonderful support for us in terms of ideas, materials and participating in all of our employee orientations and student programs.”

Numerous benefits
Bob Davis, Transportation supervisor, says UAB’s involvement with CommuteSmart provides numerous benefits for the employees and students who take part in the program.

Among the advantages are a reserved parking space for employee commuters with three or more riders, check-off passes that enable those who must drive to work separately an opportunity to do so once per month, and split costs for the parking place deducted before taxes evenly among the group.

“There are other incentives and rewards from CommuteSmart such as a cash award of up to $123 for the carpool and gas cards each quarter,” Davis says. “Participants also are guaranteed a ride home in case of an emergency. Plus, the program saves participants money, gives us more parking availability on campus and is better for the atmosphere because we’re not polluting as much.

“All employees have to do is form a three-person carpool and ride together three days a week to get started.”

Saving money
Joyce Kanute knows how much the program can benefit employees and their families. She’s been leading a vanpool of UAB employees from Hayden for 16 years – the past 10 years as part of the CommuteSmart program.

“I can’t imagine how many automobiles I’ve saved myself from buying by vanpooling all these years,” says Kanute, a program coordinator in Infectious Diseases. “It’s not only about saving money on gas, it’s saving my personal automobile. When you add up having to have your oil changed three or four times a year, plus the tires, plus the wear and tear on the car . . .you’d be buying a new automobile every three or four years, at least driving from where we live.

“I’ve estimated I’m saving at least $200 a month, and that’s pretty good savings to me.” And, says Kanute, UAB and CommuteSmart make the program an enjoyable experience. CommuteSmart maintains an online ride-matching database, helps to form vanpools, manages incentive programs and oversees the Emergency Ride Home program.

“They make it very easy on you and convenient, and they’re always available to you in case you have an emergency,” Kanute says. “For example, I had one occasion where the battery on our van was dead. They brought someone out to jump it off, but it wouldn’t jump, so they brought us a new van.”

To sign up for the program or learn more, call 1-877-433-6282 ext. 4 or visit www.commutesmart.org/birmingham for details. Check the UAB Reporter’s Wanted section in the classifieds for CommuteSmart opportunities.

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