In June of 2023, Sustain Dane staff sat down with Roundtrip Program Manager at the Greater Madison Metropolitan Planning Organization, Zia Brucaya to discuss their sustainability story. RoundTrip is a transportation demand management (TDM) program of the MPO that promotes alternatives to driving alone in Dane County.

TDM programs rose in popularity in the late 1970s during the fuel crisis. The first Dane County program was introduced in the 1980s. Over the years, these programs grew and built upon past success to bring us today’s newly revitalized RoundTrip. 

The sustainability benefit of RoundTrip is reducing carbon emissions from transportation. A secondary benefit includes reducing the space needed to store and move cars (parking spaces and roadways). Zia notes, “The more people we can shift to other modes of transportation, the less we need to focus on designing for cars,” which is better for public health, creates less air pollution, and fosters environments that are more comfortable for walking and bicycling. 
RoundTrip is a free program that matches users with transportation options other than driving alone. At the start of this year, they launched their online platform (available in English, Spanish, and Hmong) that serves as a matching tool where users can find carpool partners, bikepool partners, and even ride matches for longer one-time trips.  

Employers are encouraged to use the platform as a way to promote transportation options to their employees and members. Some larger organizations even have a branded network to try and match up RoundTrip users within their office while other organizations will use the program to help find carpooling for one-time events. Employers can also take advantage of the platform’s widgets to run office challenges. Employers can also take advantage of the platform to run office challenges that track GHG emissions reduced, money saved, calories burned, and vehicle-miles reduced. This year, RoundTrip released a new Commute Options Program Toolkit for employers in Dane County that offers key steps and strategies for supporting a variety of transportation options at the workplace, plus employee and site survey templates to get started.

Bikepool matching is another service RoundTrip offers, as a way for bicycle commuters to find others to ride with for fun or support. Users available for bikepool matching in RoundTrip include people who are experienced bicyclists willing to serve as a resource for others, which can be a great option for those who are new to bike commuting.  

Have you heard of RoundTrip’s Emergency Ride Home program? A barrier to using alternative sources of transportation for work commutes can be the fear of something happening that requires you to get home or to another destination quickly (such as picking a sick child up from school). RoundTrip helps address this concern through their Emergency Ride Home program, which provides alternative commuters with up to six Union Cab taxi vouchers per year to use in case of emergency while at work. This free offering is available to those who commute by any mode other than driving alone, and is now digitized to make it more accessible. Zia explains, “The purpose here is to remove a large barrier people have to leaving their car at home and using another form of transportation, so that they don’t have to worry about what they will do if they get sick or their kid gets sick.” Providing users this peace of mind is often the incentive needed for them to choose alternative transportation.

The platform also features a tool where individuals can log their alternative trips that showcases the benefits of this program including: calories burned (if biking or walking), money saved, reduced carbon emissions, etc. Since the new website platform launch in January, the community response has been great, averaging 68 new sign-ups per month. They periodically run challenges to incentivize users, with their most recent incentive being March Madness. For March Madness, any user to log a certain number of alternative trips was entered into a raffle. Zia explains, “Celebrating users by having periodic challenges and rewards that make people feel good about riding the bus, bicycling, walking, and carpooling.”

*Wigit shows numbers of registered trips since June 26, 2023  

When asked what a sustainable future looked like to her, Zia remarked, “Everyone in our community having safe and convenient transportation options to get wherever they need to go by walking, biking, public transit, and carpooling. People not having to rely on their cars. It’s better for our personal health, it’s better for environmental health, it’s better for our communities.” ❖