Peter Hurst is making it cool to walk to school. Through his work with the Boulder Valley School Department of Transportation, he has invented a program that will make it easier to hang up your car keys and dust off your bike before heading to school. The Trip Tracker Program is a way to reward students in the area for using alternative transportation with a goal to largely reduce the usage of automobiles as the primary method of getting to school.
What are the benefits besides the obvious exercise and cleaner air? Participants can earn Trip Tracker Dollars by doing things such as walking, biking, or taking the bus as transportation for school. The incentive program is not just about active transportation and also rewards students for carpooling. Hurst encourages parents to drop their children off a few blocks away from school and let them walk or bike the remaining distance.
Participants track their trips, and as a reward, one Trip Tracker Dollar is given for every four trips, and a two dollar bonus is given if alternative transportation is used for all possible trips in a given month.
One Trip-Tracker Dollar is equal to a real dollar and is redeemable at designated locally owned businesses. Hurst’s intention is, “to keep money in Colorado and the district area,” by building a strong sense of community. Hurst buys back every Trip Tracker Dollar for 50 cents from the businesses, allowing them to help a good cause and receive a nice tax write off, which gives them incentive to participate. Gateway Fun Park and Glacier Ice Cream are the most popular places Trip Tracker Dollars are spent.
Staff members are not excluded from partaking in the program, and are rewarded in the same way as students. Bike to Work Day may have passed, but Trip Tracker motivates participants to ditch the car everyday. “The program has the potential to build habits,” said Hurst, “the whole concept of a district transportation department being interested in anything other than school buses is ground breaking.” Trip Tracker has already been integrated into elementary, middle, and high schools within the Boulder Valley and St. Vrain Valley school districts, with plans to expand to nearby Louisville and Lafayette.
The Trip Tracker program makes everyone a winner. “Kids desire to have dollars,” said Hurst, “so we reward those already using alternative transportation, and the others will all want to sign up.” Participants receive a monetary incentive while parents can rest easy knowing their kids are taking part in a safe program.
Hurst believes that even in the most susceptible neighborhoods the program can succeed. “Everyone thinks about safety for their kids,” says Hurst. Trip Tracker Program creates a safe environment for kids at school by eliminating the number of cars at school drop-off areas and the amount of pollution present from idling cars. Another concern amongst parents is kids traveling to school alone, however Hurst has organized a school community transportation network directory for walking and bike groups. Over 100 people participate in these groups, giving more students the opportunity to be involved in the program, as well as offering another safe way to get to class.
Trip Tracker offers more than Tracker Dollars as incentive, as the habits instilled in participants can last a lifetime. Hurst claims that we have to let the culture change to where getting dropped off at school is obsolete and using alternative transportation is the new cool.