Commuters clean air in campus challenge

Everyone's able to breathe a little easier thanks to more than 650 registered UBC Commuter Challenge participants who walked, cycled, carpooled or rode the bus to campus recently on Clean Air Day.

Participation tripled from last year with commuters from 45 UBC departments involved.

"Besides registered entrants, we estimate another 2,000 people tried out some alternative transportation mode that day. Once people see how easy it is, we're hoping they might make it a habit,"says Rob MacDonald, a graduate research assistant working with UBC Trek who helped organize the event.

If commuters use alternative transportation even one day per week, UBC will be able to reach its target of 20 per cent single occupancy vehicle reduction, says MacDonald.

Departments were challenged to have as many participants as possible use environmentally sound transportation on Clean Air Day.

Those taking top prize for participation among departments with 25 or more members included Advanced Materials and Process Engineering, Oral Health Sciences and Civil Engineering.

Taking top place among departments with 24 or fewer members were Purchasing, the Centre for Research in Women's Studies and Gender Relations, the Locksmiths' shop in UBC Plant Operations, the Women Students' Office and the French, Hispanic and Italian Studies Dept. The last four had 100 per cent participation.

The first-ever UBC Great Trekker designations were conferred on Carole Forsythe of Awards and Financial Aid who has made a daily bus commute from Kerrisdale since 1985, and daily bike commuters Dennis Matisz, a project designer at UBC Plant Operations and Maria Erhardt, secretary to the president.

Great Trekkers were nominated by their peers for their excellent track record of using alternative transportation. Nominations were judged by UBC Trek staff members.

A variety of community sponsors provided prizes for the event. Prizes included bike helmets, bike lockers, and transit passes. All participants received coupons for cinnamon buns.

The event, organized by the UBC Trek program, Plant Operations' Waste Management, and the Student Environment Centre, was part of Greater Vancouver Regional District's Bike to Work Week and was designed to help improve local air quality.

UBC's Trek program was created to promote sustainable transportation alternatives at the university and beyond.

The next Clean Air Day will be held in September.

For more information contact the UBC Trek office at (604) 827-TREK, the carpool/vanpool hotline at (604) 827-RIDE or visit the Trek web site at