Skip to main content For screen readers, our previous mobile pages might be more easily navigated while we continue to improve the accessibility of our website.

  Riders Almanac - Metro Transit's Blog
Bicycle Carpool Car-Sharing Community Go Green Rideshare Vanpool

Commuter Choice Awards recognize sustainable transportation leaders 

| Thursday, April 28, 2016 4:01:00 PM

Most days, Matt Privratsky gets to work by taking an hour-long walk from his Midway area home to downtown St. Paul. The 3.5-mile trek might also involve boarding a bus, catching the METRO Green Line or using a Nice Ride bike – or some combination of all of the above.

“Walking all the way helps you get mentally prepared, and it’s also very relaxing,” Privratsky said. “By the time I get home, I’m in a really nice relaxed mental state. And because I stay active as part of my day, I don’t need to intentionally exercise or have a gym membership.”

The multi-modal approach reflects the habits of many of his co-workers at Fresh Energy, a St. Paul-based independent non-profit that works to make Minnesota’s energy system cleaner and more efficient. Ninety percent of Fresh Energy’s staff walk, bike or take transit to work.

While sustainable transportation naturally aligns with Fresh Energy’s mission, it also reflects a robust transportation benefits program. Employees can earn $2 per day by walking or biking to work. Fresh Energy also matches employee spending on transit.

To help car-free employees like Privratsky get to appointments and meetings during the day, Fresh Energy subsidizes annual Nice Ride memberships and has accounts with car-sharing services car2go and HOURCAR.

Fresh Energy’s efforts were recognized this week at the Commuter Choice Awards, where employers, organizations and individuals who share a commitment to sustainable transportation were celebrated.

The annual awards were presented by Metro Transit in partnership with the region’s Transportation Management Organizations (TMOs) – Commuter ServicesAnoka County Commute SolutionsMove Minneapolis and St. Paul Smart Trips. A panel of Twin Cities transportation experts evaluated nominations in selecting the winners.

“Metro Transit is proud to recognize all those who share its commitment to sustainable transportation,” Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb said. “As these honors reflect, our region benefits from having a strong transit network as well as many other transportation options that provide alternatives to driving alone.”  

A list of awards presented at the 2016 Commuter Choice Awards is below. Learn how Metro Transit and the region's TMOs can help your organization here

Building Owner/Management Company: CenterPoint Energy

Directly adjacent to the Nicollet Mall Station, CenterPoint Energy’s new corporate headquarters provides employees convenient transit access. The move also presented an opportunity to create a new shared space for Meet Minneapolis and Move Minneapolis, which promotes transit, carpooling, biking and walking among downtown Minneapolis commuters, residents and visitors. The street-level retail space opened in 2015.

Honorable mention: Normandale Lake Office Park, Hines Property Management

Employer: Fresh Energy

Fresh Energy’s commitment to clean energy and sustainable transportation is reflected in the non-profit’s transportation benefits program. Employees can earn $2 per day by walking or biking to Fresh Energy’s St. Paul offices. Fresh Energy also matches employee spending on transit. To help employees travel to appointments and meetings during the day, Fresh Energy subsidizes annual Nice Ride memberships, has a business account with car2go and has a corporate account with HOURCAR. As a result of their comprehensive transportation benefits program, 90 percent of Fresh Energy staff walk, bike, or take transit to work.

Honorable mention: Barr Engineering Co., Sovos Compliance, Be the Match

Government Entity: St. Paul Public Housing Agency

The St. Paul Public Housing Agency has gone above and beyond to encourage active transportation among residents in its housing communities. Partnering with Cycles for Change, nearly 900 free bikes, helmets and locks have distributed to youth since 2012. Residents also have access to free Nice Ride memberships, bike repair stations and workshops on bicycle maintenance. Resident-led walking groups have also encouraged residents to move more and explore their neighborhoods.

Individual: Brian Nelson

Since taking over Best Buy’s commuter benefits program in 2015, Brian Nelson has worked to enhance and expand benefits for employees at the company’s Richfield headquarters and at locations across the country. Nelson advocated for and then helped to implement a pre-tax commuter benefit program that allows employees to pay for their transit costs with pre-tax dollars. The number of employees who use transit, carpool and vanpool have risen as a result of his efforts.

Honorable mention: Jeff Hainlen, Rebecca Airmet

Organization: Minnesota Life College

Minnesota Life College offers a three-year program for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other learning disorders. As part of their life skills training, instructors teach these individuals how to travel independently on transit. By building their skills and confidence, graduates have the freedom to get themselves to work and appointments, run errands and pursue their dreams.

Commuter Choice Awards 2016
Community Rider Profile Rideshare Vanpool

Vanpoolers commended for commitment, consistency 

| Wednesday, November 06, 2013 4:56:00 PM

For the last three decades, Kathryn Voeltz has commuted nearly 60 miles from her home in Spring Valley, Wis. to downtown Minneapolis. Never in that time has she had to make the trek alone.

Instead of driving solo, Voeltz has joined with other cross-state commuters to share the ride. After initially carpooling, Voeltz began driving a van 29 years ago and joined the Metro Vanpool program in 2002.

The program allows groups of five to 15 people in areas without regular transit service to share the cost of vehicles leased from Enterprise. The service extends into a small part of Wisconsin that is considered a commuter shed for the Twin Cities.

On Wednesday, Voeltz was among a group of six volunteer vanpool drivers to be recognized at the annual Commuter Choice Awards. Each driver has spent a decade participating in Metro Vanpool. Now in its 13th year, the program has 75 active vanpools with more than 600 active passengers.

Other drivers recognized this year commute from Eden Prairie, Lindstrom, St. Cloud, Hastings and North Branch. Combined, they have logged nearly 1.75 million miles in around 250,000 trips to and from work. Voeltz alone has driven an estimated 312,000 miles on 47,000 trips to and from Minneapolis on the Interstate 94 corridor.

“I’m sure over the years that I’ve saved myself from having to buy a new vehicle,” said Voeltz, who works at U.S. Bank.

As the volunteer driver of a 12-seat Ford passenger van, Voeltz picks up eight fellow commuters at Park & Rides in Hudson, Wis. and River Falls, Wis. that do not have bus service. The passengers found each other by using Metro Transit’s online commuter database.

By driving, Voeltz avoids parking, fuel and maintenance costs, which are shared by passengers. This month, each person in Voeltz’s vanpool paid $138 to cover expenses. The Metropolitan Council covers the other half of the lease expenses.

While the cost savings are the biggest perk, Voeltz said she also likes being in control of the vehicle. “I kind of like being in the driver’s seat because I get to pick the right lane and make the best time,” she said.

Leading a vanpool isn’t without its responsibilities, though. Besides handling the lease, vanpool drivers are responsible for reporting their commute data, maintaining a pool of passengers and collecting payments.

Randy Rosvold, senior project administrator for the program, commended Voeltz and other vanpool leaders recognized at Wednesday’s Commuter Choice Awards for their commitment, dedication and consistency.

“Really if you think about everything that’s involved, these people are really going above and beyond what traditional commuters do,” he said.

> Star Tribune: Commuter Choice Award winners announced

> Commuter Choice Awards

> Metro Vanpool

> 30-year vanpooler builds retirement nest egg by sharing the ride

> Enjoying the shared ride

> Create a Commuter Account

Photo: Kathryn Voeltz, third from left, with some of her fellow vanpoolers at the downtown Minneapolis parking ramp where the group parks and meets at the end of each workday.

Skip footer navigation

CONTACT US
FOLLOW US ON: