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City wins $1 million Bloomberg grant to encourage alternatives to driving

Durham’s efforts to encourage commuters to find alternatives to their cars have won the city $1 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies.

The Durham Mayors Challenge Team has been working on a pilot program since the city was selected as one of 35 finalists in the U.S. Mayors Challenge in February. The program worked with 1,586 downtown employees to encourage “new modes and routes for downtown commuters and introducing health, money and time benefits of not driving a car.”

The project included a planning tool that provided commuters with personalized routes and, mapped options for stops, time comparisons, and benefits. The employees who used the tool were 12 percent more likely to use alternative transportation over driving alone.

The city also used a GoDurham bus lottery, which turned riding the bus into a friendly competition. Commuters who played the game reported using alternative transport 19 percent more, and “reported a higher level of happiness and lower levels of stress” throughout the pilot.

Funding for this “test and learn” phase, which lasted 6 months, came from Bloomberg Philanthropies, which provided each of the 35 finalists with $100,000 in grants as well as technical support.

Now, with the $1 million prize, Durham will begin implementing these programs in order to tackle its more significant mobility  problems: “The city’s parking capacity and budget for street-maintenance can’t keep pace with residents’ dependency on single-occupancy vehicles, negatively affecting more than 34,000 downtown employees.”

The city’s goal is to reduce the number of cars in downtown Durham by 5 percent, about 800 vehicles, to reduce the demand on parking and local roads.

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