COUPEVILLE – It was a bold step for a small town: At a time when budgets were never leaner, Coupeville decided to go greener.
A year after launching an initiative to reduce vehicle trips and cut greenhouse gas emissions, the Whidbey Island town showed how a program originally designed for congested, urban areas can make a difference in rural parts of the state, as well.
On the first anniversary of Coupeville’s Community Trip Reduction program last month, the town – population 1,800 – tallied a cumulative savings of nearly 40,000 gallons of gasoline and 757,000 pounds carbon dioxide from would-be vehicle emissions.
“Every vehicle trip we eliminate brings us closer to our goal of reducing greenhouse gas,” said Coupeville Mayor Nancy Conard. “It’s been wonderful to see people really getting into this idea of trip reduction.”
Shortly after Coupeville hired Cathy d'Almeida in July 2008 to be the town’s first-ever sustainability coordinator, d’Almeida began looking for ways to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Even though the weekday rush hour in Coupeville usually lasts about 15 minutes, a thorough analysis of the town found that just like in the big cities, transportation is responsible for most of Coupeville’s greenhouse gas.
After studying programs that have shown success, d’Almeida based Coupeville’s initiative on the state’s Commute Trip Reduction program. “The savings in gasoline alone can be pretty significant,” d’Almeida said.
In August 2010, she joined forces with Sustainable Whidbey Coalition, Island Transit, local employers, such as Island County and Whidbey General Hospital, and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to launch a small-town version of CTR with her sights on big-city success. She patterned Coupeville’s program on Seattle/King County, where WSDOT and King County Metro worked together to ease ridesharing and access to other efficient transportation with RideshareOnline.com and CTR.
“Coupeville came to us with an opportunity,” said Brian Lagerberg, WSDOT’s director of public transportation. “We gave them the support they needed to get their program up and running with RideshareOnline. We provided the framework for their program and showed them why employers in their community would invest in it as a benefit for their employees. They showed us how our tools can work for less-congested areas of the state.”
Trip reduction programs have been targeting emissions, fuel consumption, congestion and economic development in urban areas across the state for nearly two decades with the state’s CTR program. It focuses on large employers in urban centers to encourage workers to drive alone less often. WSDOT is a national leader in trip reduction, but its existing programs didn’t extend to small towns like Coupeville.
“When we see our approach to managing transportation demand taking root and making a difference in smaller communities, as well as our urban centers, we know we’re on the path to making a significant difference for communities, the environment and the economy throughout the state,” Lagerberg said.
To learn more about RideshareOnline.com including recent upgrades visit WSDOT’s Public Transportation Division at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Transit/Rideshare/RideshareOnline.htm.
For more information about WSDOT’s efforts in reducing greenhouse gas, visit our sustainable transportation page.