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The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) announced that the city of New Rochelle won the State’s first Green Cities Commuter Challenge, a voluntary, friendly competition among employees in three Westchester cities to see which could reduce greenhouse gas emissions the most over two years. All three cities reduced the number of employees driving alone to work by using alternate modes of transportation, supporting Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s ambitious clean energy goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030. Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul announced the winner today at New Rochelle City Hall. Last year, the Lieutenant Governor kicked off the Challenge with the mayors of New Rochelle, White Plains and Yonkers. Combined, city employees who stopped driving to work alone and used alternate modes of transportation increased from 15 percent to 23 percent in the first year. "New York State's aggressive mandate to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with an emphasis on the transportation sector, which is the largest contributor of these emissions, sets a golden standard for the rest of the nation to follow," said Lieutenant Governor Hochul. "The Green Cities Commuter Challenge demonstrates how New York's local governments are playing a leading role in combatting climate change and making their communities greener." To start the Challenge, surveys were conducted in the fall of 2016 to determine commuting habits of the city employees (e.g., how many miles they drive to work, if they ride a bike, etc.). Over the course of the next year, the cities used a variety of methods to promote the Challenge such as highlighting it at city events, emails, staff meetings, internal websites and flyers. In addition, four 55-inch screens were installed in public areas to show local bus and train schedules as well as information about carpools and vanpools: one at New Rochelle City Hall; one in the White Plains downtown business district; and two in Yonkers (Yonkers Public Library-Riverfront Library and Yonkers City Hall).
Specific websites were also created for each city so employees could access real-time local transportation information along with links to the 511NY Rideshare program, which has a ride-matching system and provides general transportation information. City employees can also access information relating to the progress of the competition, tips for commuting, upcoming workshops and special events to learn about commuting options. Follow-up surveys were done this past fall to see how many employees were no longer driving cars alone to work, but rather using alternate forms of transportation such as carpools, public transportation, riding bikes or walking. Since there is a wide variation in the number of employees in the cities, the winner was chosen based on the percentage of employees participating. As a result, New Rochelle was named the first-year winner for almost doubling the number of employees being “green commuters” and no longer driving to work alone every day. White Plains was second, followed closely by Yonkers.
The transportation sector in New York is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. The State is providing $300,000 for this project, which is being co-managed by NYSERDA and DOT. The second year of the competition is currently underway. Alicia Barton, President and CEO, NYSERDA said, “I congratulate New Rochelle on winning in its first year of the competition and commend all of the employees in each of the cities for stepping up and leading by example. The Green Cities Commuter Challenge is helping New Yorkers choose better transportation options that support Governor Cuomo’s nation-leading energy goals, and I look forward to more employees participating in the upcoming year.” New York State Department of Transportation Acting Commissioner Paul A. Karas said, “This new program encourages businesses and commuters to prioritize smart energy use, reducing travel, fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions while still enabling them to get to where they need to go – efficiently and economically. Governor Cuomo knows the importance of transportation and clean energy. It’s good for the environment and great for our future.” New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson said, “While I am proud that New Rochelle came out ahead, all three cities are winners. By switching to sustainable forms of transportation, our employees are saving energy, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, cutting costs and setting a great example for everyone in our region.” White Plains Mayor Tom Roach said, "I always enjoy a little bit of friendly competition with my fellow mayors, especially when it is in support of a worthwhile endeavor. This grant has afforded us the opportunity to strategically reduce greenhouse gas emissions by providing our employees greener commute options. In White Plains we have made a commitment to "Go Green" and the Green Cities Commuter Challenge is one way we are translating that pledge into real action. Thank you to Governor Cuomo for his leadership in this area. Through funding opportunities such as this, he has given me and municipal officials around the state the ability to take real steps toward improving our environment." Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano said, “Although Yonkers didn’t end up at the top of this friendly competition, the Green Cities Commuter Challenge encouraged our employees to evaluate how they can make a difference in reducing greenhouse emissions by simply rethinking how they get to work each day. I congratulate New Rochelle along with Yonkers and White Plains employees for participating and thank NYSERDA and NYSDOT for their leadership in creating inventive ways to provide for a greener, more sustainable New York.”