Wednesday May 23, 2012
From the super-sized savings in commuters' pockets to a decrease in gasoline consumption and emissions reflected in recent public transportation ridership tallies, the concept of ridesharing is fast emerging from a disregarded option perceived as inconvenient into a reliable commute of choice.
That is why transit officials from Los Angeles Metro, Ventura County Transportation Commission and Orange County Transportation Authority turned the spotlight on frontline employee transportation coordinators at the 14th annual Diamond Awards ceremony held in Los Angeles May 23.
"The Diamond Awards recognize outstanding rideshare programs at employers in Southern California," said April McKay, director of Los Angeles Metro Commute Services. "These awards highlight the best ideas in implementing alternatives to single occupancy vehicles commuting to the worksite -- thereby reducing traffic congestion and air pollution for everyone in the region."
In an array of categories that demonstrate the multifaceted approach needed to corral the region's errant traffic, 24 rideshare programs coordinated by employers in Ventura, Los Angeles and Orange counties were singled out for recognition.
Director of Metro Commute Services April McKay presents Corporate Blue Diamond Award to Los Angeles World Airport employee transportation coordinators Devon Deming and Paula Adams.
Illuminating a stellar effort in unraveling the region's huge traffic knot, the Corporate Blue Diamond Award for 2012 was awarded to Los Angeles World Airports. A record 26 percent of employees participate in the innovative rideshare program, which coordinates multiple rideshare options for the commuter, allowing participants to earn credit for different modes used for each part of the commute, such as walking as/or biking to the vanpool or train. The LAWA transportation coordinators have expanded their employee program beyond their own boundaries. Coordinators make LAWA's 66 vans available to neighboring companies and the program actively sponsors events from Rideshare Week to the L.A. River Ride.
Alan Holmes, Ventura County Transportation Commission, presents Diamond Award to City of Thousand Oaks employee transportation coordinators Larry McKinney and Mike Houser.
By promoting public transportation options in the face of the daily traffic grind, Southern California employers offer solutions to traffic congestion, air quality and the environment by reducing the number of cars on the road, noted co-host Alan Holmes, Ventura County Transportation Commission.
Among them, the top rideshare programs in Los Angeles County included Los Angeles World Airports, Los Angeles Marriott Downtown, Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services, LASD Pitchess Honor Ranch, City of Pasadena, City of Santa Clarita, Jones Lang LaSalle, and the Metropolitan Water District Southern California.
A special Jade Award - for excellence in a vanpool program - went to Quest Diagnostics Nichols Institute in Valencia, a healthcare industry company.
Honorable mentions lauded innovative solutions of employers based in Los Angeles County who advanced rideshare participation and make the region a better place to live. Those so honored were: The Aerospace Corporation, UCLA Events & Transportation and the Association for Commuter Transportation (ACT).
The top honors in Ventura County went to Employee Transportation Coordinator of the Year Jamie Cross of the City of Simi Valley, and the rideshare programs of City of Thousand Oaks, Well Point, and Ojai Valley Hospital. An honorable mention was given to the Moorpark office of Fiserv, a financial services technology provider.
Sandy Boyle, OCTA rideshare administrator, presents Diamond Award to employee transportation coordinators Grant Dawdy and Ken Jarocki of The Walt Disney Company.
Awards for Orange County top efforts in commuting and parking management on behalf of their employees and the community went to the Department of Homeland Security, Southern California Center; City of Irvine's iShuttle, The Walt Disney Company, Lender Processing Services, and the City of Garden Grove. Honorable mentions went to Panasonic Avionics Corp., Lake Forest Commuter Club, and Newport Coast Villas, Newport Villas Rideshare Program.
"The Diamond Awards encourages businesses to establish, continue and improve alternative transportation options and incentives," said co-host Sandy Boyle, rideshare administrator at Orange County Transportation Authority.
Although some form of organized ridesharing has been around since the 1970s, the increase in alternatives to the single-occupancy vehicle mode of transportation may signal a turning point in relieving traffic congestion on the car-laden corridors of Southern California.
Significantly, the Texas Transportation Institute's 2011 Annual Urban Mobility Report on Congestion ranked the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana region number one in savings in both costs and delays because of the solutions to the problem of traffic congestion that are in operation now and others on the way.
The region-wide campaign to promote carpooling, transit, traffic control technology, bike programs and other alternatives to driving alone as a means of easing traffic congestion and improving air quality is paying off. Most pointedly, the report notes that public transportation alone saved regional commuters and travelers some 33,606 hours of delay and nearly $709 million in congestion costs.
While the traffic forecast for the nation is dismal, the outlook in Southern California is optimistic because of the solutions already in place and others on the way.
Most notably on the way is Metro ExpressLanes, a pilot, one-year demonstration program overseen by Metro, Caltrans and several other mobility partners. The program includes the introduction of congestion pricing by converting High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes to High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes; the improvement of transit service and other alternatives to driving; the updating of transit facilities; and the improvement of parking in downtown Los Angeles.
Metro ExpressLanes is primarily funded with a $210 million congestion reduction demonstration grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Tolling begins October 2012 on the I-110 and February 2013 on the I-10.
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