The Go Santa Cruz pilot program is giving people who work in the downtown area access to free commutes. The initiative is part of the city’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions caused by vehicle traffic.
(TNS) — Downtown employees can now commute to work for free, thanks to the city’s Go Santa Cruz initiative to reduce car transportation.
The city of Santa Cruz launched its Go Santa Cruz pilot program Tuesday. The program encourages downtown employees to seek methods of transportation other than driving to get to work.
Go Santa Cruz is part of the city’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and actively address climate change, according a Department of Public Works press release.
The program has multiple incentives, including free bus passes, free bike locker cards, discounted JUMP bike memberships, carpooling opportunities and more.
Known as EcoPass, the bus passes offer unlimited free rides to all employees working within the downtown Santa Cruz parking district, which stretches from Mission Street to Laurel Street and from Center Street to the San Lorenzo River. The EcoPass is not eligible on the Highway 17 Express bus.
“With the free transit pass, I’ll take public transit instead of paying for parking,” Cruzio employee David L. said in the press release. “The Cedar Street parking garage has a two-year waiting list for monthly parking permits, so this is a great way to save money commuting.”
UC Santa Cruz and Cabrillo College students who work downtown have access to these benefits, but are encouraged to use their school bus passes, which already give them free rides, Fliesler said.
Downtown Santa Cruz employees can also commute on JUMP bikes for a discounted price. An employee must create a RideAmigos account and verify that he/she is a downtown worker, then he/she receives a promo code that offers them up to $2 off each trip up to 60 trips for 90 days. There is no mileage limit.
Nearly 61% of people commuting to downtown Santa Cruz are in single occupant vehicles, or SOV, according to city of Santa Cruz Transportation Planner Claire Fliesler. She said the goal is to reduce the number of downtown commuters to 50%.
“All of us want cleaner, less-congested cities where people can move freely,” said Nick Smith, public affairs manager for California, Uber. “Offering this JUMP benefit, along with other transit options, will allow for more movement and more access to employment opportunities…Here in Santa Cruz, we believe JUMP is the best commute option for downtown employees.”
To enroll in Go Santa Cruz, downtown employees must sign up with the program’s online platform Cruz511 at my.cruz511.org and go to the “My Benefits” section. Participants can win prizes for logging their use of alternative transportation. One prize includes Downtown Dollars at participating Downtown Association businesses.
Fliesler and the rest of her team will hand-deliver EcoPasses and other benefits to employees, simultaneously explaining how to use Santa Cruz Metro buses and how the program works to those who aren’t enrolled, Fliesler said. Fliesler will also host a “Lunch & Learn” series and visit businesses to answer questions.
“Behavior change is scary,” Fliesler said, adding that in-person outreach will break down workers’ fears of using new transportation.
Go Santa Cruz’s total budget is $585,000, according to Fliesler. The Metro contract for the Ecopass is $311,117. The Ecopass is funded from the Parking Fund, which comes from the parking user fees downtown.
The program was released to city of Santa Cruz employees last week and is now available to all downtown employees, according to Fliesler. Go Santa Cruz is expected to last one calendar year and will be evaluated toward the end of it to consider how and if to implement it in the future, according to Fliesler.
©2019 the Santa Cruz Sentinel (Scotts Valley, Calif.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.