Going Places

Let go of the wheel and try a new way to commute to work

If you’re like most people in Detroit and southeast Michigan, you drive to your job all by your lonesome. Just you, a droning podcaster and your road rage. but there could be another way — one that might even save the environment a little bit, and come with some other savings as well.

“Year-round, we promote alternative commuting, because it improves air quality in the region,” said SEMCOG (Southeast Michigan Council of Governments) specialist Iris Steinberg. “That’s our big reason — even though commuters find other benefits, of saving money and having a less stressful commute.”

SEMCOG holds a Commuter Challenge contest each May to rally people around commuting alternatives, whether you find a carpool partner, try van share, rent a MoGo bike, take the bus or walk. So for the entire month, each time you log your commute using a transit alternative, you’re entered into a contest. And the prizes are legit, including a night at the Westin Book Cadillac, an iPad, $100 gift cards and a bike from Detroit Bikes.

Last year, 400 people participated in the Commuter Challenge, logging 8,000 trips. Those trips added up to approximately 145,000 miles not driven –and resulted in total savings of around $26,000 for the commuters, Steinberg told Detour. A month is a pretty long time, enough to build a new habit or get used to a slightly more complicated way to get to work. Steinberg said when they surveyed participants last year several months after the May challenge, a majority of them were still using their alternative commuting modes, at least occasionally.

Interested in tracking your own commutes, and maybe loosening your grip on the wheel? You can register online, or head downtown today. There’s a kickoff event from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in Cadillac Square, with $10 gift cards when you sign up, free public transit passes and experts to help you figure out your transit alternatives. Try changing up your commute? Let me know how it goes. –Kate Abbey-Lambertz

Kate Abbey-Lambertz is the co-founder and editorial director for Detour Media. She leads editorial strategy for the signature Detour Detroit newsletter, The Blend and special projects, while shaping Detour’s membership program, audience development initiatives and design. Kate was previously a national reporter at HuffPost, where she covered equitable cities and urban issues. She launched HuffPost’s Detroit vertical, serving as reporter and editor, and has reported on Detroit for a decade. Follow her on Twitter: @kabbeyl