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REVENGE OF THE SUPERCOMMUTERS : Cashing In on Incentives

April 15, 1993|DOUG McCLELLAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Free bicycles, Sears' gift certificates, extra days off and cash. Or would you prefer a free night at a Maui hotel?

These are just some of the incentives that firms are offering to their workers who are willing to give up their solo commuting habits.

It seems some Ventura County companies will do just about anything to get employees out of their cars.

Bu the companies have their own reasons for promoting environmentally conscious commuting: They can be fined up to $25,000 a day if they are not making good-faith efforts to promote ride-sharing and other alternatives.

Here are what some county firms are offering employees for being good commuters:

* Pleasant Hawaiian Holidays in Westlake Village has one of the most popular incentive programs in the county. Anyone who walks, bicycles, or car-pools into work every day for one month earns a free night at one of the company's hotels in Hawaii or Indian Wells, east of Palm Springs, said spokesman Ken Phillips. Employees earn points every time they use alternative commuting to get to work. They also can cash in their points for such prizes as beach towels, fanny packs and T-shirts. But the second most popular incentive isn't a gift. It's permission to leave those dress-for-success clothes at home and come to the office in jeans and sweats.

* At the Point Mugu Naval Air Station, military personnel can earn up to 12 extra vacation days a year simply by riding the base bus or car-pooling to work every day.

* Amgen, the biotechnology giant in Thousand Oaks, loans employees $300 to buy bicycles. The money is "paid back" out of the monthly $25 bonuses that they earn for bicycling, walking or car-pooling to work at least three times a week. Workers who car-pool or bicycle 75% of the time get another $50 at the end of the year, said Marcia Brandt, Amgen's employee transportation coordinator.

* Bugle Boy Industries in Simi Valley gives its workers up to $25 a month to car-pool or van-pool to work. The company doesn't get many bicyclists or walkers, though; its headquarters is on a steep rise from the city.

* Data Products, another Simi Valley firm, meets its clean-air requirements with a much more limited incentive program. Because many of its workers take public transportation from the San Fernando Valley, the firm offers $15 toward the cost of a $42 monthly bus pass. It also offers a guaranteed ride home for those who have problems.

* At the Bank of A. Levy headquarters in Ventura, conscientious commuters can earn days off or gift certificates at Sears, bank official Cyndi Feldman said. Anyone who rides to work with at least two other people, walks or bicycles every day for 14 weeks can earn enough points for one day off. The same number of points may also be used for a Sears gift certificate worth about $100.

But Feldman said the incentives can't overcome certain obstacles. Because of heavy traffic, bicycling and walking can be dangerous. An employee who had just started bicycling to work at the Ventura headquarters was recently injured in a hit-and-run accident within sight of the office. The bank is half a mile from the nearest bus stop.

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