Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Tomato Head Steps Up to the Plate

It’s well-known that parking is limited downtown. But not so many are familiar with one solution that’s already available, is FREE, and even rewards participants with gift cards to local businesses for taking part. Hello Smart Trips!

Smart Trips promotes alternatives to driving alone such as bicycling, carpooling, taking transit,walking to work or even working from home. The program helps commuters find carpool partners or bike and transit buddies to help them get started. Nearly 1,000 commuters in the Knoxville area participate in Smart Trips and many of them work at businesses downtown.

This year, The Tomato Head on Market Square decided to encourage its employees to log their commutes with Smart Trips. Many of them already walk or bike to work, so Smart Trips is a natural fit. To inform them of the program,Tomato Head is putting information about the program into its employee manual and mentions it at staff meetings. They also put up posters with information about the program – provided by Smart Trips – in areas where their employeeswould see them. As a further enticement, Tomato Head will donate $500 to the charity of its employees’ choice in the fall – provided they join Smart Trips and log their commutes.

Tomato Head helps to promote Smart Trips in the community by being one of its Commuter Rewards gift card vendors. And also by putting a message on its receipts that informs patrons they can “Eat at Tomato Head for FREE” by being a Smart Trips participant. (Thanks Tomato Head!)

We’ll be checking in periodically to see how they’re doing. If you’re a business owner in downtown Knoxville concerned about how your employees get to work and where they’ll park, consider becoming a Smart Trips’ employer. It’s a FREE program. For more information, contact Smart Trips Outreach Coordinator, Sara Martin at 215-3234.
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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Changes to Commuter Rewards

We're unveiling changes to our Commuter Rewards program. And we think you're going to like them! Last quarter, thanks to our new ridematching system, participants got to choose their gift cards via their commute log page. We hope everyone is pleased with how much easier it has been to make your gift card selection this way. It has certainly made things easier on our end!

The third quarter of 2011 will end on September 30. (I know we can't believe it either!) The gift card selection button is already in place and those of you who have already earned enough credits can go ahead and make your gift card choice. For those of you who have not yet reached the threshold, you will have until October 14 to log the required total of 30 days (60 individual one-way trips) taken between July 1 and September 30 to be eligible for a gift card.

The quarter runs July 1 to September 30, so only commutes made within those dates count. You must log your commutes by October 14th or they will not count toward your gift card eligibility. (Your "total points" are actually all the commutes you've logged, not just the ones that count toward this quarter's gift card.) If in doubt about your point totals go to an individual month and see how many points you have earned for the month, compare this with your calendar entries of point earning trips - each little square that represents a trip made by carpool, bus, bicycle, walking or teleworking. These numbers should match. Remember you do not earn points for drive alone trips or days off.

Starting this quarter, if you have earned enough points to do so, you may choose up to 2 (two TOTAL) gift cards for the quarter. Since each gift card requires 60 points, it will take a total of 120 points to order two. This next part is important - no matter how many points are earned above 120, or how many gift cards are selected in excess of 2, only 2 will be sent. Remember points have no cash value, so if points are left over the total only represents the total number of trips logged. Nothing is lost if points are showing remaining beyond the two gift cards chosen.

Also new this quarter, at the time you make your gift card selection the system will prompt you to verify your correct mailing address. This is so we know where to mail the card and hopefully will prevent cards from coming back to us in the mail.

Finally, remember that cards will be mailed by the middle of the month following the end of a quarter. So for this quarter which ends on September 30, cards will be put into the mail by mid-October. If any group of cards will be going out later than that, participants will be notified by email.

Thank you so much for being part of Smart Trips. We are so happy to be able to offer you additional Commuter Rewards for your continued participation!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Second Quarter 2011 Update

New Registrants

217 new participants registered for Smart Trips this quarter which is more than the three times the number of new registrants added in the last quarter and double the number added at the same time last year. This is likely due to Smart Trips’ marketing push to promote the 2011 Commuter Challenge (including transit, billboard, radio and print advertising) and the fact that gas prices topped $3.50 per gallon for the first time in two years.


Smart Trips switched to a new ridematching database, RideShark, on May 9, 2011. The reporting mechanism of the new system differs significantly from that used by the previous provider, Basetrak. Therefore, the numbers reported from this quarter forward will be presented in a different format.

Participation skyrocketed this quarter with 807 commuters logging at least one daily alternative commute. This figure nearly doubles the number of commuters who logged at least one alternative commute during the previous quarter and reflects an increase of 34% over this same time period during 2010.

295 individuals qualified for gift cards this quarter by actively logging more than 30 days (60 trips) worth of alternative commutes. This is up by 6% over the previous quarter but down negligibly from last year at the same time. This is attributable to difficulties with the new ridematching system and accurately accounting for the number of qualifiers. The number of gift cards distributed this quarter is 275.

Area commuters saved a total of $64,844.72 in fuel and maintenance costs this quarter, up from $47,317.47 last quarter and from $51,320.06 during the second quarter of 2010 when gas prices for much lower.

The amount of CO2 emissions reduced during the quarter was 374,714 pounds which represents a significant increase – nearly 30% - over last quarter’s reduction of 262,782 pounds and is also up from last year’s reduction of 292,719 pounds.


The RideShark system is not dependent on employer portal pages for logging commutes. The number of custom sub sites created in the new RideShark system is 33.

Marketing and Community Outreach

Smart Trips information was distributed by the Knoxville Regional Bicycle Program Ambassadors at Earthfest at Pellissippi State in Oak Ridge on Saturday, April 16, 2011. This same day, Smart Trips advertising and marketing efforts for the 2011 Commuter Challenge broke with radio advertising on local NPR affiliate, WUOT; on KAT transit buses and on billboards.

On Wednesday, April 20, Smart Trips attended Oak Ridge National Labs Earth Day to promote the Commuter Challenge and to help them raise awareness about vanpooling. On Wednesday, April 27, Smart Trips attended the Association of Administrative Professionals event at Rothchild’s Conference Center. Knoxville Regional Bicycle Program Ambassadors also promoted Smart Trips at Oak Ridge Earth Day on Saturday, April 30.

Smart Trips was promoted at numerous events throughout Bike Month in May 2011 including Bike to Work Day on May 20 and the I Bike Knoxfest on May 22nd. Smart Trips advertisements appeared each week in May in the Knoxville print publication, Metropulse. Smart Trips attended the Farmer’s Market on Market Square opening day and the first Wednesday of June and July.

On Friday, May 27, Smart Trips held a guerilla marketing event on Market Square to raise awareness about CO2 emissions. Video footage of the event was posted on YouTube and is accessible from our website at

Smart Trips' Facebook page ( had 156 likes last quarter and is now up to 192.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Uplifting Commuting Stories

The storm that passed through our region in late April left many damaged vehicles, homes and hearts in its wake. It's hard to imagine that anything good could have come from it but Smart Trips has learned from its participants that that is exactly what happened.

Hail took Smart Trips coordinator Alisa Ashouri's family from two cars down to one. "Simply put, we had to explore other options. At first my husband and I just made do with the one car and then I thought maybe it's time to check again and see if I have any carpool matches. Yes, I'm ashamed to admit, I was driving alone."

Between the new ridematching system and the many registrants signed up during the Commuter Challenge, Alisa found a carpool partner and is happy with the results. "We got our car fixed, but I'm still carpooling. It's great having someone to converse with on the way to and from work and not having to fill up my tank as often is pretty nice too!"

For Dr. Patricia Sura, another commuter whose windshield was damaged by the storm, bicycle commuting was the chosen alternative. During the month of May, while waiting for the windshield to be fixed, Dr. Sura used the bike to visit friends, run errands and to get back and forth from work. Once the car was fixed, she simply stayed with it. Dr. Sura has been chosen as Smart Trips April Commuter of the Month.

For information about the Smart Trips program and the Commuter Challenge, go to

Friday, May 27, 2011

Challenge Results through May 13, 2011

Since May 1, participants in Smart Trips 2011 Commuter Challenge,, have removed more than 66,000 pounds of harmful CO2 emissions from the air.

In the Business Challenge, the University of Tennessee is the current overall leader with 50 points and 5,993 pounds of CO2 reduced. Elizabeth Eason Architecture leads the 1 to 20 employees’ category. The Metropolitan Planning Commission has the top spot in the 21 to 99 employees’ category, while 21st Mortgage currently holds the lead in the 100 to 350 employees group. Other leaders include TVA in the 351 to 1,499 employees group and UT in the 1,500 and up employees’ category.

Smart Trips is a regional organization that promotes alternatives to driving alone and helps commuters find carpool partners, bike and transit buddies, save money on gas and help the environment. Each year the organization holds a Commuter Challenge to increase participation and raise awareness. More information about the Challenge and the Smart Trips program is available at

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

New Ridematching System

Our new ridematching system has been up a few days and I thought I'd take a moment to address a few things.

First, thank you so much for your tolerance and understanding during this transition. You make the Smart Trips program successful and we very much appreciate your participation and your patience! Next, if you have not already done so, please confirm your membership via the email sent to you by the new program or go to to join. Until this is done you won't be able to log your commutes or be eligible for prizes or the Emergency Ride Home program. Finally, if you are having any problems with accessing the site or going through the registration process, please contact me at or call (865) 215-2916. I would be happy to talk you through or offer whatever assistance I can.

Few more things:
  • Instructions for deleting or deactivating your account were sent in the original email, however, I can also do this from my end if you prefer.
  • The process of confirming your information only happens with the initial set up, after that you're just two clicks in to log your commutes each time you log on.
  • We've added complete instructions for logging commutes to the logging pages to make it clearer how to do this. But please let us know if you have any questions.
And don't forget the 2011 Commuter Challenge is underway. We're giving away Amazon Kindles, iPod Nano MP3 players, and a $1500 vacation package courtesy of AAA Travel of East Tennessee. More information about the Challenge is available at

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

First quarter 2011 Progress Report

63 new participants registered for Smart Trips from January 1 through March 31, 2011 which was up over the last quarter and up significantly – more than 25% - over the same time period in 2010.

444 commuters submitted at least one daily commute log versus 457 at this time last year, thus reflecting a slight decrease in daily participation between 2010 and 2011. However, this may be due to the fact that this winter was one of the worst on record in the Knoxville area.

The total number of logs submitted by participants decreased from 65,798 in the last quarter (October 1 to December 30, 2010) to 61,684 this quarter. This also represented a drop from the same time in 2010 when 64,510 logs were recorded. Here again, the weather may have played a role.

Looking at the number of trips by mode, the number of carpool trips did increase from this quarter over last quarter by 478. Transit use increased by 6%, from 7,424 trips to 7,908. Vanpool trips increased from 269 to 283. The number of walking trips reported rose from 2,297 to 2,549. The number of telework trips dropped from 1,697 to 1,593. The number of bicycle commutes reported was fewer, dropping from 5,891 last quarter to 4,853 this quarter, but this was likely due to the particularly harsh winter with an unusual number of snowstorms and colder than average temperatures.

A total of 278 individuals qualified for gift cards this quarter by actively logging more than 30 days (60 trips) worth of alternative commutes. This represented an increase over last quarter but was down slightly from the same time last year when 285 participants qualified.

While gas prices in the region showed significant increases this quarter which probably resulted in the jump in registrations over this time last year and the increases in carpooling and transit use, extremely harsh weather and colder than average temperatures likely played a role in the decrease in overall participation.

See more detailed information on Smart Trips website at

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

4th Quarter 2010 Progress Report

61 new participants registered for Smart Trips this quarter, up over the same period in 2009.

483 commuters submitted at least one daily commute log representing an increase over the same time period in 2009. There was a seasonal decline from summer into fall, as anticipated, but the decline was not as steep as last year’s – just 8% versus last year’s drop off of more than 17%.

At 65,798, the total number of logs submitted by participants from October 1 to December 30, 2010 exceeded the number submitted in 2009. And though there was a slight seasonal decline, at 5%, it was less than a third of the 16% decline reported from the third to fourth quarters of 2009.

The number of bicycle trips reported rose by more than 800 over the same time period in 2009; from 5,029 to 5,891. The number of carpool trips reported also grew – from 14,965 to 15,756. Walking trips reported increased by nearly 38%. Transit was down from the previous year, though the seasonal decline, at 12.8%, was not as steep as the 15.6% drop recorded in 2009. Vanpools, however, showed steep declines dropping from 890 recorded trips during this quarter in 2009 to just 269 recorded trips during the same time frame in 2010.

A total of 277 individuals qualified for gift cards this quarter by actively logging more than 30 days (60 trips) worth of alternative commutes. This was an increase over the same time last year and down by just 5% from the previous quarter. During the same time last year, that decline had been 10.3%.

Increases in participation were likely the result of rising gas prices which at some stations in the region came to just under the $3 per gallon mark. In the fourth quarter of 2008, retail gas prices were coming off summer highs in excess of $4 per gallon and commuters were still not driving alone at previous levels. In 2009, with gas prices ranging from $1.78 to $2.60 per gallon, commuters likely became more comfortable and returned to driving alone in greater numbers. 2010 saw prices steadily increase each month, from a February low of $2.64 per gallon to $2.99 per gallon by year’s end resulting in increases in Smart Trips participation. With oil and gas prices expected to rise through the summer of 2011, increased Smart Trips participation is anticipated.

The amount of CO2 emissions reduced during the fourth quarter of 2010 was 262,782 pounds which represented an increase over the fourth quarter of 2009 when 257,715 pounds were reduced.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Options in Ridesharing

There are a number of options for those interested in sharing a ride.

There’s Smart Trips own ridematching database which allows Knoxville area commuters to quickly and easily find carpoolers headed in their same direction at about the same time. It’s easy to register and find a carpool partner on our website:

There are other online services that offer similar functions for other regions of the country or for certain segments of the population, for example Zimride ( which caters to college students.

Several new websites –,,, and – offer the opportunity for sharing the cost of a cab ride. Primarily aimed at larger cities, the sites can be useful for those taking business or pleasure trips to more populated areas.

There’s also the concept of car-sharing, where vehicles are owned by an entity or community and made available to be shared for use for a fee. Companies such Zip Car ( and Connect by Hertz ( operate car-sharing programs in cities across the U.S. Plans are underway to bring car-sharing to Knoxville.

All these options make for reduced emissions, cleaner air and less traffic congestion which are goals for the Smart Trips program as well. For more information about Smart Trips, check out our website:

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Ins and Outs of Commuter Rewards

With the start of a new year, we thought it would be a good time to review the details of Smart Trips Commuter Rewards program.

Smart Trips participants who bicycle, carpool, take transit, vanpool, walk to work or work from home and log these efforts for 30 days (that’s 60 one-way trips) each quarter are eligible for Commuter Rewards. Quarters run January through March, April through June, July through September, and October through December each year.

Early in the months of April, July, October and January, Smart Trips participants should receive an email reminding them to log their commutes by a specific date to be eligible for Commuter Rewards prizes, including $50 monthly and $100 quarterly gift cards to local vendors.

Those who meet the logging requirements each quarter - by the deadline - will then receive a second email directing them to make their choice of a $10 gift card from amongst Bliss, Café 4, Mast General Store, Panera Bread, Regal Cinemas, Three Rivers Market or Tomato Head by completing a very short survey in Survey Monkey.

Gift cards are not automatically sent, even to those who qualify. Participants must choose which card they want before one will be purchased for them and mailed out. We strive to accomplish this by the end of the month following a quarter.

For more information about Smart Trips Commuter Rewards program, check out our website:

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Future of Ridesharing?

The most recent issue of TDM Review predicted that “the emergence of “real-time ride matching apps” for smart phones may be the tipping point that brings ride matching to the masses.”

One of these is AvegoTM Shared Transport ( It offers real-time search capability right from your cell phone. The app lets private cars and vans become part of the public transportation network by allowing drivers to offer their vacant seats to riders. A driver with vacant seats can be matched with riders in need of a ride along the same route at the same time. The cost of the trip can even be fairly calculated and charged to the rider.

Carticipate ( is another iPhone app with ride matching capabilities. But it is the first rideshare application on a location-aware mobile platform. iPhone users tell the app where they’re headed and Carticipate can pinpoint their location via iPhone’s built-in GPS and locate other Carticipate registered drivers or riders along the way. Carticipate works with Facebook, too.

Pretty soon there will likely be dozens of rideshare and trip planning apps like Avego and Carticipate. And with smart phone use predicted to grow, perhaps one day sharing a ride may become as commonplace as driving alone.

Of course, it's worth noting that Smart Trips currently offers ridematching on its website at

Friday, November 12, 2010

Tell Me About It

Smart Trips recently held its first post-Commuter Challenge celebration event. This one was at the University of Tennessee to award the Green Spirit Award ‘Log” for most enthusiastic participation. Delicious Tomato Head pizza and Magpies cupcakes were enjoyed by all.

As usually happens at Smart Trips events, we get feedback on a variety of transportation topics – bus service glitches, long-awaited greenways, bike-lane markings and trolley schedules. I’m glad our participants feel comfortable sharing their transportation difficulties.

It would be great to learn about these concerns as they occur, so that they could be addressed in as timely a fashion as possible and since this might save someone else from encountering the same thing.

To that end, Smart Trips participants are encouraged to let us know about travel problems they run into while riding the bus, bicycling around town or carpooling as soon as they can. Please feel free to contact us at any time with your ideas, questions and concerns. You can share with us via our blog comments, or on facebook at, via Twitter @knoxsmarttrips, or email to

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

If It Was Easy

This afternoon a friend said something both mundane and profound. We were discussing our diets – hers is really healthy; mine, not so much – and she said, “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.” And I realized that that sentiment could apply to a lot of things.

If it was easy, everyone would eat healthy, be fit, and participate in Smart Trips. Truth is, sometimes, the very things that are best for us, and the world around us, are not the easiest things to do.

That’s just one reason Smart Trips strives to make green commuting as simple and pleasant as possible, from providing services such as our ride matching database and bicycle mentors to regularly offering participants gift cards and other prizes.

So as the weather turns colder and you contemplate whether to try clean commuting or keep on doing what you’re doing, remember, no one ever said it was going to be easy. But it sure can be rewarding – and in more ways than one.

More information about Smart Trips is available at

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Contests and Luncheons and Prizes, Oh My

Smart Trips’ first ever Social Media contest is underway and will run through Friday, October 22. Each morning on Smart Trips’ Twitter (@knoxsmarttrips) and Facebook ( pages a trivia question will appear. In the afternoon, the answer to the question will be tweeted and posted. To be eligible to win a $25 gift card to Tomato Head contestants should email the list of answers to Smart Trips, on Friday afternoon after the last answer appears. The prizewinner will be selected by random drawing from amongst entries with the correct answers.

Our Commuter Challenge 2010 Awards Luncheon was held Friday, October 15 at KAT’s new transit station. The top prize of a $500 gift certificate to hhgregg was awarded to Deborah Cherry, TVA. Winners on-hand to collect their Panasonic Blu-Ray players were Ken Crowley of Mast General Store, Christopher Smith with TVA, and Lorie Smith with Knox County. Winners present to collect Magellan GPS devices included, David Grant of ORNL, Bruce McCall of Roush Music, Gerry Moll, and Susanne Tarovella with Smee & Busby Architects.

Business prizes were also provided at the luncheon. The delicious meal was provided by The Parlor Catering Company.

Turns out the luncheon was also a Smart Trip as most arrived on foot, by bus or bicycle. Even the prizes were delivered by bike. Thanks so much to everyone who helped make our luncheon and the Commuter Challenge successful.

More information about the Challenge and the Smart Trips program is available at

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Commuter Challenge Results Announced

Smart Trips’ 2010 Commuter Challenge surpassed expectations with participants removing nearly half a million pounds of CO2 emissions from the air and overall participation topping 10%. Also, during the Challenge, bicycle commuting grew by 9% and transit use increased by 12%.

The winner of the overall Challenge and the category of 1 to 25 employees is Elizabeth Eason Architecture with 80% of its employees making at least 5 green commutes during the Challenge.

Other category winners are: Knox County Government in the 3,000 plus employees group with 2% participation; TVA in the 1,000 to 2,999 employees group with 2.5% participation; Kimberly Clark in the 500 to 999 employees group with 2.3% participation; Traveler’s Insurance in the 100 to 499 employees group with 3.1% participation; and Mast General Store in the 26 to 99 employees group with an impressive 27% participation rate.

Prizewinners include: Deborah Cherry, TVA; Lorrie Price, Y12; Susanne Tarovella, Smee & Busby Architects; Susan Henderson, Kimberly Clark; Rob Barker, ORNL; David Grant, ORNL; Elizabeth Ferguson, UT; Diana Hun, ORNL; Gerry Moll; Linda Wallace, Knox County; Bruce Mcall; Beverly Boyd; Lorie Smith, Knox County; Rene Jordan, Knox County Library; David Evola; Christoper Smith, ORNL; Ken Crowley, Mast General Store; Kevin Chan, ORNL; Tom Hooper, Traveler’s Insurance; Cher Bosch; and Pat Watson, Kimberly Clark.

Business and individual winners of prizes provided by hhgregg, Magpies Bakery, Smart Trips and Tomato Head will be recognized at a luncheon Friday, October 13 at Knoxville Station, KAT’s new transit facility on Church Avenue.

More information about the Challenge and the Smart Trips program is available at