Alternate commute options still available Published Jan. 27, 2012 By Jenny Gordon 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- There are more ways to get to work at Robins than riding in a car alone. Base leaders reminded everyone of this last week, as well as the mass transit options available to help alleviate parking and traffic issues on the north end near industrial facilities. Currently, there are three initiatives in place: carpooling, vanpooling, and Buses into Robins Daily, or BiRD, which partners with the Macon-Bibb County Transit Authority to take Bibb residents to and from work. "We wanted to take another opportunity to start off the new year and reinvigorate the program, and to thank people for what they've done in the past," said Col. Roger Johnson, 78th Mission Support Group commander. "We are encouraging our workforce to take advantage of these commuting initiatives. It's not just good for them - it's also good for the community and environment." BiRD has seen tremendous growth since the program began in November 2010. Cost to ride is $3 one way, $6 roundtrip. According to MTA's Rick Jones, there were just six riders the first day buses rode into Robins over a year ago. Now, BiRD brings in about 850 riders per month, with three buses transporting riders to 12 stops on base. "It is a good, healthy increase," Jones said of ridership numbers. On sustaining the program, he added, "We don't have any intentions of making any changes to BiRD. We intend to continue it." Changing the culture of workers when it comes to carpooling is another matter. John Pugh, 78th MSG deputy director, encourages people to think about this option, which can save money on vehicle maintenance and free up parking spaces. "You don't have to ride mass transit every day," said Pugh, a carpool rider. "Riding two to three days a week to also benefit the base and the local community in maintaining good quality air standards." Every mile driven equals to one pound of pollution. He added, "Every mile that we save is quite a benefit." Through carpooling, over 1800 tons of pollution has been reduced locally. Since over 60 percent of Robins' military and civilian employees live in Houston County, a feasibility study is underway to determine additional mass transit options into the base. For those who use commute options, there are incentives. To date, there are 849 participants who are enrolled in the Transportation Incentive Program. Riders receive fare reimbursement in the form of a voucher from the Department of Transportation. Currently under TIP, employees have been reimbursed over $1.2 million. Robins' vanpool program currently has 712 riders enrolled, utilizing 63 vans from 19 companies. "This is a huge impact to reducing congestion at the gates and alleviating parking, primarily on the north end," noted Pugh. Kenyon Thweatt, Clean Air Campaign senior employer program manager, works with Robins in creating commute options to work. CAC has established relationships with more than 1600 state employers and several military bases to help reduce demand for parking and wear and tear on infrastructure. "Clean air is a health issue and a quality of life issue. While there are many factors that affect air quality in Georgia, it is important to note that nearly 50 percent, or half of the smog-forming emissions in Middle Georgia, come from the tailpipes of cars and trucks," said Thweatt. He added that, according to studies, 80 percent of Houston and Bibb commuters still drive to and from work alone. Commute challenges must continue to be addressed, as impact can be immediate and measurable in terms of financial, health and environmental benefits, he stressed. To learn more about BiRD, visit http://www.robins.af.mil/library/transportation/index.asp.