Nha Ha — Mustang Daily

The Commute for Cash Challenge is a major component of October’s Regional Rideshare month. To help promote sustainable commuting, San Luis Obispo Regional Rideshare will award $300 to various program participants every week.

To break it down, the Commute for Cash Challenge is a program designed to catch people being responsible about their commute.

Morgen Marshall, the chair of SLO Regional Rideshare, will give out $100 with her team to someone who is making a major change in their commute, $100 to someone who is continuing their green commute habits and $100 to someone who convinces someone else to go green.

“We want to reward people who are acting as ambassadors,” Marshall said. “And so far, it’s going really well.”

SLO Regional Rideshare will also be giving out gift cards daily.

Theater arts freshman Torin Lusebrink said he’d gladly change his commuting habits for $100, both on campus and at home.

“I live in Davis; it’s a flat, bike-friendly town,” he said. “And here, I already walk everywhere.”

Marshall, a Cal Poly graduate who has been working with Regional Rideshare for three years, said the Commute for Cash Challenge is very applicable toward college students and there’s no reason not to sign up.

“It’s incentive to get people to think about the way they commute,” she said. “And it saves money. I know that sounds good to college students.”

Graphic communication freshman Andrea Hernandez said she strives to live sustainably, by riding her bike or walking everywhere.

Hernandez also works to inspire others to go green.

“I always encourage my roommates to recycle and turn off the lights, all that kind of stuff,” she said.

The Commute for Cash Challenge has roughly 1,900 community members in its database, which Marshall said is a great success.

Since Oct. 1, the community has logged 3,000 trips, travelled 102,627 sustainable miles and saved $14,754 in gas money.

“That’s in just two weeks,” Marshall said. “Fifteen thousand dollars is a lot of money. That’s pretty impressive.”

But the most impressive, Marshall said, are the city’s greenhouse gas levels.

“We’ve saved 82,178 pounds of greenhouse gases,” she said. “That’s equivalent to 103 barrels of wine. Imagine all of those in the sky.”

If winning cash and saving the environment aren’t enough incentives, SLO Regional Rideshare will also promote carpool week.

“We’ll be at a different gas station every day,” Marshall said. “And we’re going to give $100 in free gas to someone who is carpooling.”

Next week is bike week, and Marshall and friends will host bike breakfasts. On Oct. 27, from 7 to 9 a.m., the team will be on the corner of California and Foothill boulevards with pastries, coffee and fruit for cyclists and pedestrians on their way to work and school.

“I like to think we’re filling the gas tanks of our cyclists,” Marshall said. “It’s just another incentive.”

SLO Regional Rideshare month will close with the opening of a new 12-space bike rack on Garden Street, across from Linnaea’s Café.

“That bike rack is alway full,” Marshall said. “It’s exciting to add another one.”

The Commute for Cash Challenge is perfect for Cal Poly students, Marshall said.

“All of this is free,” she said. “I know when I was in college, I loved the idea of saving money.”

Marshall realized the program really affected people’s bottom lines when she began the Commute for Cash Challenge, she said.

“Cash is more tangible than the environment,” she said. “You can’t see poor air quality and we don’t have a lot of traffic congestion. But people see the difference when they’re saving money.”

The Commute for Cash Challenge was designed with the hope of making lasting changes in the community. In its first year, the challenge targeted those who were used to driving alone, Marshall said. Many of them tried something new, be it carpooling, biking or public transportation, and stuck with it.

“We keep in contact with our users,” she said. “And we have a lot of support.”

Marshall said San Luis Obispo is a green community; the program could not exist without the support from the community, she said.

“We have an incredible community,” she said. “It shows how important being green is and how important living outside the box is.”

Marshall would like to keep San Luis Obispo a green community, she said.

“Let’s keep SLO, slow,” she said. “We’re such a car-centric culture. Just take a few more minutes and re-think your commute.”

SLO Regional Rideshare puts on many “go-green” events throughout the year with the help of the community. Last year there were more than 60 bike-related events in the city of San Luis Obispo; none of which could happen without a strong community, Marshall said.

Marshall’s work is not limited to the Commute for Cash Challenge. SLO Regional Rideshare’s largest campaign is Bike Month, in May. It also works with employers and various social services to promote sustainable commuting ideas. Another program, Safe Routes to School, works to provide students with safe paths on which to ride their bikes to school.

Living in a predominantly car-centric culture can be hard, Marshall said, especially when students’ hometowns aren’t pedestrian friendly. But, San Luis Obispo was recently voted the most pedestrian friendly town in the country, she said.

“It’s just a matter of whether or not you’re willing to change your commute,” Marshall said. “You just have to re-think the way you do things.”

Marshall strongly encourages Cal Poly students to take part in the Commute for Cash Challenge, and to take advantage of the green resources we have around us.

“It’s totally free, and you have nothing to lose,” she said. “The best part of my job is giving away $100.”

Even if you’re not interested in the Commute for Cash Challenge, SLO Regional Rideshare’s website, www.rideshare.org, has an abundance of resources for those interested in traveling green.

“These programs apply to students,” Marshall said, “there’s no reason not to take advantage of them.”

The Commute for Cash Challenge continues through the month of October, and you can sign up online at www.rideshare.org.

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