CATMA THE BIGGEST LITTLE AGENCY IN VERMONT TRANSPORTATION?
Part 2: CATMA uses a range of program elements including cooperative arrangements to nudge—with astonishing success—more of its target population of 16,000 students and 10,000 employees away from solo commuting and towards walking, bicycling, transit, and car share
CATMA, the Campus Area Transportation Management Association, works an entire range of program elements from incentives for students to use the private Car Share Vermont services for not bringing a car to keep at campus to monthly drawings of gift certificates for Marketplace businesses from a basket of those who use non-solo driving to work.
Along with a universal free access to the Burlington's transit system (Chittenden County Transportation Authority [CCTA]) for University of Vermont (UVM) employees and students, program elements dropped solo driving to work by 14%, decreased cars student cars taking up valuable parking space at campus lots, and overall contributed to all the good things of decreased solo driving—reduced pollution, better health, a more efficient community, less traffic congestion, and lower infrastructure costs. Slightly more than half of troika employees solo drive to the workplace.
With solo driving to work stuck at about 75% for decades statewide (another roughly 12% carpool), shifting about one in seven solo drivers to alternates deserves attention for an accomplishment bordering on the miraculous. Of course, a couple of developments, particularly the emergence of dozens of buses serving three commuting corridors out of Burlington, contributed substantially to CATMA success, but CATMA brokering a number of programs and services deserves the overall credit for the performance to the benefit of its troika sponsors, their employees and students. The shift away from solo driving among CATMA member employees found in surveys dating from 2000 also finds confirmation in Census journey to work data from the 2000 Census to the recent 2006-2009 numbers for Burlington resident commuting trends.
The troika who formed non-profit CATMA--Champlain College (CC),Fletcher Allen Health Care (FAHC) and UVM—choose which program elements to participate in and to what degree. All three, for example, provide through CATMA a guaranteed ride home in case of a personal emergency at no cost to the employee. UVM employees and students receive full access to CCTA buses (including Link services) while FAHC provides CCTA passes at 50% discount and Link tickets at 25% discount. The “bike/walk” program rewards any participant with a $15 reward for at least 3 days per week walking and/or biking to work for a full 8 week period—the reward can be used downtown Church Street Marketplace merchants—currently the Roxy movie theater, the Ski Rack and City Market. This program operating since 2000 has awarded $20,000 so far and has 120 regular participants. For those who go to work other than by solo driving, in a second reward approach, three names are drawn monthly for a gift certificate.
CATMA runs a traditional ride-match program, and in cases where matches cannot be found the search expands to include downtown State of Vermont employees. Private downtown employers also participate in the guaranteed ride home service including the Chittenden Bank and City of Burlington downtown district employees. Services to State downtown employees began about 2005. The downtown State employees also participate in the bike/walk program and receive carpool materials. The State provides vans plus financial support for employees who form a vanpool through a program operated through a private company. The Vermont Agency of Transportation operates this “Go Vermont” vanpool program.
Note that federal tax policy allows any employer to provide incentives to carshare, bike and use public transit, incentives similar to a health savings account. However, use of these tax incentives while common in large metropolitan areas remain a rarity in Vermont. The one group still discriminated against in these federal tax incentives? Any one who walks to work, the most healthful and least polluting form of commuting.
CATMA, the “biggest little agency in the Vermont transportation”, continues to improve and expand its services with efforts beginning shortly to work with more private and public employers to institute one or more elements of programming generally described as “commuter share”, the field of aiding employers and employees to reduce expensive and inefficient home to work trips, particularly the solo driving type.