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New Carpool Plan Offers Discounts

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

If a faster drive in the diamond lane or companionship isn’t enough to get you to carpool, consider this new incentive: discounts at restaurants, bowling alleys, video stores and other businesses.

On Wednesday, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority put in gear its Club Metro, a program that provides discount cards to certain commuters who at least some days over six months do not drive alone.

To get the cards, they must bike, walk, carpool or ride public transit to work for five days each month.

MTA Deputy Chief Executive Officer Sharon Landers said Club Metro seeks to reduce smog and traffic by rewarding positive behavior rather than punishing motorists for driving alone.

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“We are encouraging people to change the way they commute,” she said.

Club Metro members will be entitled to 20% discounts or two-for-one specials at businesses as varied as Subway sandwich shops, Hollywood Video and AMF Bowling, she said.

The yearlong program is being offered to employees of businesses with fewer than 250 workers along three congested corridors. Those choked arteries are the San Gabriel River Freeway in southeastern Los Angeles County, the Pomona and San Bernardino freeways in the San Gabriel Valley and the San Diego Freeway in the South Bay.

The club’s inauguration follows the MTA’s April launch of Rideshare 2000, which offers $2 gift certificates at supermarkets or gas stations for every day that employees from the same businesses that are eligible for Club Metro avoid driving to work alone during a three-month period. To join Rideshare 2000, a commuter must have been driving alone to work for the last 90 days.

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The criterion for joining Club Metro is to have been getting to work other than by driving alone for at least six months. Rideshare 2000 members’ participation in their program would count toward this requirement.

Participants can earn up to $120 worth of discounts or gift certificates from each program.

How does the MTA know who is really sharing rides? Employers are required to sign off on trip reports. But the MTA’s Cosette Stark concedes, “it’s an honors system.”

Club Metro members will eliminate 200,000 vehicle trips and reduce air pollution by 72,000 pounds, officials project. About 2,300 people are expected to take part in Rideshare and an additional 1,000 are expected to take part in Club Metro.

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