State environmental agency recognized as Best Workplace for Commuters

RALEIGH

It might be hard to believe, but getting to work for some state employees can be one of the most enjoyable times of the day. That is, if they’re not driving in Raleigh traffic.

Many employees in the state environmental agency ride the bus, carpool or bike to and from work rather than battle rush hour congestion in their own vehicles.

This week, the state environmental agency was recognized by the Triangle J Council of Governments with a Best Workplace for Commuters award, thanks to the agency’s efforts to offer its employees inexpensive commuting alternatives to driving their own vehicles.

“We are committed to providing our employees with a healthy array of commuting options that help improve air quality, reduce congestion and enhance our employees’ quality of life,” said John Evans, the agency’s chief deputy secretary who spoke during Wednesday’s awards ceremony. “By creating new and innovative ways to help state employees get to and from work, we’re meeting one of Governor McCrory’s priorities to make our employees happier and more productive.”

The Best Workplace for Commuters program is a national program that recognizes organizations that provide holistic transportation options for their employees. The program is coordinated locally by the Triangle J Council of Governments, a non-partisan group of local governments that promotes collaboration on cross-jurisdictional challenges in the seven-county region. The state agency was one of four organizations recognized Wednesday with Best Workplace for Commuters awards. 

Mary Sell, who coordinates the council’s Best Workplace for Commuters program, said the state environmental agency was recognized for giving employees plenty of environmentally preferable commuter alternatives. One of those is the GoPass, which enables permanent, full-time state employees to pay $25-a-year for a pass they can use on any of the region’s public transit agencies to commute to and from work.

“I can read a book or the newspaper rather than focusing on the traffic for an hour-long drive along I-40,” says Jim Bateson, who heads the state’s Superfund program and uses his GoPass to commute on the express bus between Chapel Hill and Raleigh. “It’s really a nice time of the day and it’s been a good opportunity to get to know other commuters.” 

Others take advantage of the discounted van pooling offered through the GoTriangle program or choose to carpool with other state employees to the government complex in Raleigh. A 2015 survey of employees in the state environmental agency found that employees choose to carpool in about 14 percent of the trips they take to and from work.

“The agency has one of the most engaged and enthusiastic alternative commuter bases I’ve seen in a while,” Sell said. “I’m refreshed by the energy and dedication to improving our shared environment and know that their advocacy and passion will help to advance the Triangle region as a sustainability leader nationally.”

Each of the agency’s programs also allow employees to work from home occasionally so they can cut commuting costs and reduce stress. Also, several employees regularly ride a bike to work. The state agency took into consideration its bicycling employees when it constructed its new Green Square headquarters a few years ago with showers in the building and new bike racks outside, said John Seymour, who leads the agency’s sustainability team.

“When I started working here, I wanted a free way to get to work,” said Michelle Sclafani, an environmental technician in the state’s composting and land application branch who bikes to work regularly. “It kind of feels like taking a shot of espresso. Any type of exercise in the morning increases blood flow and it wakes you right up.”

Interested in learning more about commuting options in your community? Check out the agency’s web page devoted to commuting options: http://deq.nc.gov/about/divisions/air-quality/air-quality-outreach/air-quality-public-involvement/commuter-options.

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