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Commuter Choice Recognition Event, Washington, D.C.

Remarks of Governor Christine Todd Whitman
Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
at the
Commuter Choice Recognition Event
Washington, DC

May 14, 2002

Thank you, Chris (Grundler) for that introduction.

It is a pleasure to be here this morning to celebrate the success of the Commuter Choice Leadership Initiative as part of National Transportation Week and the Tour de Sol festival.

It was just one year ago that the Commuter Choice Leadership Initiative welcomed its first employer. Today I am surrounded by many of them – and they represent only a fraction of the almost 300 Commuter Choice Employers that have joined to date.

These companies here are partnering with EPA and DOT to demonstrate that good business and environmental protection go hand in hand; that doing what’s good for the environment is also good for the bottom line.
The Commuter Choice Leadership Initiative is an innovative voluntary partnership program that helps us simultaneously address two problems that plague many regions of our great country -- poor air quality and traffic congestion. It offers employees choices for how they get to work. These choices help improve our environment, and reduce stress and save money.

Commuter Choice does this by providing tools, technical assistance, and public recognition to companies who earn the Commuter Choice Employer designation. In fact, in order to qualify as a Commuter Choice Employer, companies must meet or exceed the program’s National Standard of Excellence for commuter benefits. That means that the companies represented here today are the best of the best.

Commuter Choice benefits include tax-free transit or vanpool passes, carpool matching, telecommuting, and more. I’m happy to say that EPA offers many of these same benefits to our employees. And I believe the results speak for themselves.

For example, CH2M Hill offers their employees $40 a month if they give up their free parking spot. This offer resulted in a quadrupling of commuters choosing not to drive alone – from 11% to 46%. This one change in one small facility resulted in almost a million miles per year of reduced driving, saving over 40,000 gallons of gasoline.

Another example comes from Emory University, where they have saved $15 million by reducing the demand for parking. They determined that providing a free transit pass to an employee for 30 years is more cost-effective than building a parking space, which costs $10,000 and takes up valuable space on their campus.

In fact, the programs put in place by Commuter Choice Employers are already resulting in reductions of 3 million miles a day of automobile commuting, over 7,000 tons per year of noxious air pollutants and 300,000 tons per year of greenhouse gases. These benefits complement the President’s Clear Skies Initiative, which will result in healthier air quality – and healthier lives – for all Americans.

If you’re still asking yourself, “Why should I choose more environmentally friendly ways of getting to work?” – let me share some facts with you.

S In the U.S., three-quarters of all trips made to and from work are by vehicles driven alone;

S The number of cars in the U.S. are increasing twice as fast as the population; and

S A typical household spends nearly 20 percent of its income on driving costs - more than it spends on food.

We’re happy to recognize our Commuter Choice Employers who are doing great things for their employees and for the environment. But truth be told--they have figured out that doing these things is actually smart business anyway.

These companies know that well-designed benefits packages and transportation programs result in increased job satisfaction, improved productivity, decreased turnover and other bottom-line business benefits.

After just one year, Commuter Choice is off to an excellent start. But right now only about 5% of all U. S. commuters work for employers that offer any commuting benefits at all, and less than a quarter of those offer anything close to our Commuter Choice Employers here today.

If just half of all U.S. employees were covered by commuter benefits such as those offered by Commuter Choice Employers, traffic and air pollution cuts would be equivalent to taking 15 million cars off the road every year – saving American workers about $12 billion in fuel costs.

And so our challenge over the next two years is to increase ten-fold the number of employers participating in the Commuter Choice Initiative. I can’t wait to see the day where commuter benefits are as standard as paid vacations or 401(k) plans.

The success you see here is not just the result of work we do at EPA and DOT. We could never do this work alone. Also seated here behind me are a group of organizations we call Commuter Choice Champions. In reality, these organizations – such as Metropool of Connecticut and the Association for Commuter Transportation – are doing the day to day hard work that is leading to the accomplishments we are beginning to see.

Commuter Choice Employers represent the best of environmental cooperation, showing that a healthy balance sheet and a healthy environment can go hand in hand. I hope that their leadership encourages others to take advantage of this extraordinary partnership opportunity. These efforts will ensure that the ride to work – and to a clean environment – will be smoother for generations to come.

Thank you for allowing me to join you today, and I invite you to hop on your bike and join me at the Tour de Sol festival.