More commuters are ditching their vehicles for walking, biking or taking the bus as the Omaha Commuter Challenge rolls on.
Participants have walked, bused, carpooled and biked nearly 550,000 miles.
Starting Monday, Metro Community College students enrolled in either credit or GED classes can pick up free bus passes for Metro Transit called Pass to Class. The card allows students free rides to get to and from class, to internships or to any school-related activity. That's why Metro wants more students to get involved with the Commuter Challenge this year.
Here's how students can make an impact. Add up all the miles every time you choose the bus instead of your own vehicle and log it online. Student riders here passed more than a million rides this year, so the miles add up fast.
Every year, about 1,000 students use the pass, which means lots of miles logged. Metro Transit has been changing routes to add more services and better routes. Earning miles through the Commuter Challenge can even earn you a prize.
Organizers say riding the bus is just easier. "The people on the bus get to use their phone and text to their heart's content,” says Julie Harris with Live Well Omaha. “They don’t have to worry about that. I mean it's a much less stressful way to get around, I think."
Metro Community College students can pick up the card at student services.
Each month, the challenge highlights a new form of transportation. In July, buses saw lower fares to get people to ride and riders responded by logging thousands of miles. This month, cycling numbers are through the roof and those pedaling around town say that as a result their health has improved since exercise is built into their days. Their mental health improves, too. A morning trip eases stress and gets them going. It helps the air quality as well since they're reducing carbons and toxic fuel by skipping the motorized vehicle.
"Initially, I thought I'd do it probably two, three times a week when it first started and it turned out from week one I did it every day and when the challenge was over I stuck with it,” says Ken Curran.
“We have people who are riding for a mile or less just to get to the coffee shop or the store or riding with their kids to school, so we're finding it's a very diverse group that each has a diverse set of reasons for being out there,” adds Harris.
The Omaha Commuter Challenge runs until September 30th. You can still join and add up your miles by going to omahacommuterchallenge.org. Participants with a lot of miles can get prizes like gift cards and even a bicycle for big winners.