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CommuteSmart program saves employees time, money

Matt Windsor lives a life that's much like any other UAB employee, which means he's busy.

As the manager of UAB Publications and Periodicals in Creative & Marketing, there's always something that needs to be written, completed, planned or scheduled. He also has a busy home life with a wife and two young children. And his daily commute from Calera often got the best of him --mentally and physically.

"It was essentially taking up two hours of my day," he says. "I had to find a way to get some of that time back."

Windsor mentioned his need to find someone to carpool with him to fellow co-worker Jo Lynn Orr, who carpools with two others from Jasper. She signed up with the CommuteSmart program several years ago and suggested Windsor look into the program as a possible solution.

Windsor did just that and soon connected with Darlene Calfee, a registered nurse at The Veteran's Affairs Hospital. She offered him an opportunity to ride with her vanpool from Calera the last week of May to see if it was something that would fit his needs. Windsor was happy with the experience and now is part of the UAB Employee CommuteSmart Program.

"It's given me back those two hours I was missing," he says. "I can do work, read, nap -- whatever. It's also a lot less stressful. I find when I get home that I feel much better. And because we get here early in the mornings -- usually just after 6:30 a.m. -- and leave at 4 p.m., I'm home a little earlier in the evening, and I get to spend more time with my wife and kids."

CommuteSmart works with companies, organizations and institutions to develop tailored commute options programs that benefit them and their employees.

Windsor's group has as many as nine people riding on any given day. Monthly vanpool costs are approximately $120 per person; the option saves wear and tear on personal cars, reduce air pollution and saves each member money on parking.

"There's no doubt the money I will save is an added benefit," Windsor says. "I'm probably saving up to $100 a month when you figure in parking and gas. I'm also not putting the 60 miles a day I was on my car, so I should save money on oil changes and tires."

UAB also provides incentives for those who sign up to participate in the program, says Parking and Transportation Manager Karen Moody. Among the benefits are reserved parking spaces for commuters with three or more riders, and 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 from CommuteSmart such as a cash award of up to $120 for the carpool and gift cards each quarter," Moody says. "Participants also are guaranteed a ride home in case of an emergency. We've actually had to take someone home as far away as Gadsden.

"CommuteSmart really is a great benefit for all employees. All UAB employees have to do is form a three-person carpool, ride together three days a week and log their clean commutes at www.commutesmart.org to get started."

Windsor says CommuteSmart was instrumental in helping him find a vanpool, and he found their website easy to navigate.

Moody says she wants UAB employees to contact her and let her know their experiences in any of the university's transportation connections, including CommuteSmart, the Max bus service, Campus Ride and Campus Escort.

Moody also wants faculty to remind students of the UAB Student Rideshare Program. It works in much the same fashion as the employee program, providing students a reserved parking spot and four emergency parking passes to use per academic term.

The same incentives are available through CommuteSmart for students who participate in the program as long as they are registered with both CommuteSmart and UAB. For students to qualify, they must carpool at least two times per week.

"Both are really good programs," Moody says. "And we've got some people carpooling now who haven't taken advantage of this. It's something certainly worth doing."

To sign up for the CommuteSmart program or learn more, call 205-264-8455 or visit www.commutesmart.org/birmingham for details.

Via UAB