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Bicycle Commuter Barbara Tolliver

THURSDAY - OCTOBER 04, 2012 - NAPA, CA - Barbara Tolliver gave up her car about three years ago and now commutes to work on her bicycle. "I think I'm better off because of my health and the money I save," Tolliver says "and I can enjoy my trip and see what's going on around me." She is participating in the Napa Green Commute Challenge. J.L. Sousa/Register

Three years ago, Barbara Tolliver traded in her car for a bike to save money and for the exercise. And she loves it.

She rides to work, from her home near Lincoln Avenue to her reservation desk at the Napa Valley Wine Train. On her days off, she takes the VINE bus to Vallejo and gets on the Vallejo Baylink Ferry to attend the opera in San Francisco. It’s relaxing and she’s been saving money, she said.

The price of gas, she said, was “ridiculous. (And) there is no telling how much I paid in (car) insurance,” she added.

Tolliver is among 70-plus commuters who are taking part in the Napa Green Commute Challenge — a new incentive for commuters who either bike, carpool or use public transportation to go to work.

The program, which is intended to reduce road congestion and benefit the environment, is open to Napa County residents and to people who commute to jobs in Napa County. The program is open only to people whose employer is a registered participant.

Commuters can sign up for the challenge now. They must not do solo car commuting for 30 days between Sept. 1 and Nov. 30 to receive a $50 gas or grocery gift card and become eligible for cash prize drawings, according to Suisun City-based Solano Napa Commuter Information, which serves commuters in Napa and Solano counties. The program is part of Solano Transportation Authority.

The Napa County Transportation and Planning Agency obtained $40,000 from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to pay for the Napa Green Commute Challenge and other commuter incentive programs.

The incentives include:

• Vanpool incentives: $300 gas cards to new vanpool drivers, $100 gas cards for backup vanpool drivers

• Commuter Bicycle incentive: up to $100 to defray the cost of new commuter bikes

• Rental car or taxi vouchers for emergency ride homes

Sorel Klein, assistant program manager with Solano Napa Commuter Information, said 18 employers in Napa County are participating in the first Napa Green Commute Challenge. “We’re sure it’s going to grow,” he said. “It’s in its infancy.”

Solano County’s program, in place for the sixth year, has about 600 participants, he said.

“We anticipate that the number of participating employers and employees (in Napa County) will increase in the future. It is not too late to sign up — we encourage interested employers (if they have at least 100 employees if based in Napa, or at least 50 employees if based in St. Helena, American Canyon, Calistoga, Yountville or elsewhere) to register for the Napa Green Commute Challenge,” Klein said.

Other commuters in the Napa Green Commute Challenge include Maria Medrano who, like Tolliver, rides a bike to work in Napa. “The extra exercise was nice,” said Medrano, who leaves the family vehicle with husband, Alonso, who takes their two boys to school.

Wendy Neveadomi carpools from Vacaville with a Napa County Office of Education co-worker, Lisa Guerrero. Neveadomi said she enjoys carpooling instead of driving alone. “It’s nice to be able to commute with somebody,” she said. “It’s kind of dreary driving the same distance by yourself.”

Another Vacaville resident, Bonnie Webster commutes to Napa with son Daniel, who also works in Napa. “It made sense to carpool,” Bonnie Webster said. “I would be silly not to,” she said.

Webster and her son alternate vehicles and driving duties. Webster, who works at the Napa County Library, wishes a trolley would run from downtown Napa to stores on Soscol Avenue.

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