published Thursday, June 20th, 2013

Green Trips aims to reduce traffic in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia


by Cliff Hightower
  • photo
    Cars travel in the north and southbound lanes of I-75 under the Ringgold Road overpass in East Ridge.
    Photo by Alyson Wright.
    enlarge photo

TAKE A GREEN TRIP

To sign up for Green Trips, visit www.greentripscha.org.

BY THE NUMBERS

Green Trips aims to reduce the number of vehicle miles traveled over Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia over the next three years. The estimated reductions are as follows:

* 12,981,000: Estimated daily miles traveled in Hamilton, Walker, Dade and Catoosa counties.

* 194,716 miles: First-year reduction goal

* 389,431 miles: Second-year goal

* 649,052 miles: Third-year goal

Source: Chattanooga-Hamilton County-North Georgia Transportation Planning Organization

Too many people drive alone in their cars in Southeastern Tennessee and North Georgia, and a new program hopes to change that, a Chattanooga transportation official said.

"We're trying to shift some of those trips," said Melissa Taylor, coordinator for the Chattanooga-Hamilton County-North Georgia Transportation Planning Organization.

Green Trips encourages people to get out of their cars and walk, ride bikes or take shuttles to destinations. It kicks off today.

Participants register on a website and log times they bike, shuttle, walk or carpool. The reward is a chance to win prizeses.

The idea is to cut the number of drivers and, thus, the pollution from their cars.

Planning started a year ago with a $600,000 federal grant over three years. The grant pays for a website and a full-time and a part-time employee.

Jenny Park, a TPO senior planner, said the first-year goal is a 1 percent decrease -- about 194,716 miles -- in total travel by vehicle in Hamilton, Catoosa, Dade and Walker counties, the area the planning organization covers.

She said organizers hope corporate sponsors will take over when the federal funding ceases.

"Our goal is to make it self-sustaining," she said. The program already exists in Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville, Park said.

Prizes for participants in the first month include an iPad, bike passes, bus passes and other local vendor gifts, she said.

Phillip Pugliese, bicycle coordinator for Chattanooga, said he likes how the program helps give choices.

"It's always good to incentivize behavior change," he said.

Lisa Maragnano, assistant executive director for the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority, said her organization has worked with the group.

She said there are positives at every step: It should get more cars off the road, more people will look at alternate means of transportation and win prizes along the way.

"It's a win-win for all," she said.

Contact staff writer Cliff Hightower at chightower@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6480. Follow him at twitter.com/cliffhightower or facebook.com/ cliff.hightower.

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