Gas prices getting you down? Then leave your car in the garage and ride to work on a different set of wheels.
Starting today, the Metro Area Commuter Challenge encourages Omaha-area residents to replace drive-alone trips to work or the grocery store with their bicycles, the bus or a car pool.
Such alternative transportation would save people money — as much as $2,500 a year — and improve Omaha's air quality, said Paul Mullen, executive director of the Metropolitan Area Planning Agency, which along with the Metro bus system is sponsoring the challenge.
People who participate through Aug. 3 can earn an iPad, a $100 gift card of Joslyn Museum memberships by tracking their trips online. MAPA and Metro ask that businesses form employee teams to bike, carpool or ride the bus to work.
In addition, MAPA will help match people to fellow carpoolers in their area. Metro, meanwhile, offers bus service in Omaha, Council Bluffs, Bellevue, Papillion and La Vista.
Activate Omaha, a local public health organization, sponsors a separate Bicycle Commuter Challenge every spring and summer that encourages people to choose their bikes over their cars when heading to work. In 2010 Activate Omaha's challenge had 62 teams participating from May to September. That number jumped to 104 teams last year, and Activate Omaha representatives hope for even more teams this year.
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