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Encouraging people to make more of their trips by walking, biking, taking the bus or sharing a car ride is the purpose of Whatcom Smart Trips, a community program created over ten years ago.

Susan Horst, Director of Mobility Programs, Whatcom Council of Governments says, “Nineteen thousand people have participated over the last ten years. We’ve gotten thank you notes from people who have participated and really seen and lived the benefits. It’s a great community program.”

 

whatcom smart trips
Darlene Edwards makes Whatcom Smart Trips activities a way of life each day. Photo credit: Evantide Photography.

From the Trip Diary that keeps track of your Smart Trip activities to instruction for school children in building independence, to helping seniors get around town, there’s definitely something for everyone in this program. Not to mention the health benefits you receive from simply getting out and moving with others.

 

Darlene Edwards of Bellingham participates in Smart Trips. “It literally saved my life,” she says of her experience. “It got me motivated and keeps me motivated.”

Edwards describes how she got involved in the program.  As an instructor at Bellingham Technical College for over twenty years who sat behind a computer, Edwards knew it was time to get moving for better health.  She started with walking to and from the library each day.  Then she discovered Smart Trips and liked the ability to see her progress using the Trip Diary. 

Edwards walks along a bus route in case she gets tired and needs to just hop on to get home. “The bus drivers are so nice,” she says. “I know they will always get me home safely if I need it.”

Edwards utilizes the WTA buses as a matter of practice each day. She takes the bus anywhere she needs to go and then incorporates a walk into her daily journey.. “Smart Trips and WTA have taken away the fear of being too far from home to walk back,” she says.

 

whatcom smart trips
Dr. Laurie Brion uses her Smart Trips activities as a time to rebalance and chill. Photo credit: Evantide Photography.

By logging her activities into the Trip Diary, Edwards keeps track of her miles, calories and even how many car trips and gas she’s saved. “I like the incentive. It tells me how much I’ve done and how great that accomplishment is.”

 

As a result of incorporating the Smart Trips program into her life, Edwards feels great and enjoys staying motivated and moving. “I dropped 50 pounds!”“It takes the stress away,” she continues. “It’s about taking that first step and keeping it going.”

Dr. Laurie Brion, with Unity Care NW, also participates by incorporating biking to work into her schedule. She recognizes the importance of fitting physical activity into her day. “My bicycling Smart Trip helps me stay mentally sharp and happy,” she says. “It’s a great time to chill and rebalance, keep oxygen flowing to my brain and it makes me feel good about myself.”

When you sign up for Smart Trips, you can make use of the Trip Diary by tracking your trips made by walking, biking, sharing rides or taking the bus. The Trip Diary tracks your activity including money saved, calories burned and distance traveled.

 

whatcom smart trips
The Whatcom Smart Trips Summer Camps teach kids how to navigate the city on their own. Photo credit: Kirsten Wert.

According to Horst, since this community program began , over 19,000 people have made over 3.1 million Smart Trips saving over $7.4 million. In addition to money saved by individual participants, the community saves on health care costs. The increase in physical activity, experienced by Smart Trips participants, leads to reduced heart disease, depression, anxietydementia and arthritis pain..

 

And, there are other incentives as well. Once participants have made ten trips, participants receive a discount card for use with local businesses. For every 100 trips, you receive a thank you gift. Also included are monthly and quarterly drawings for those who consistently make Smart Trips.

Through Smart Trips, you have access to educational materials on virtually any topic related to walking, biking and busing around the city, making it easy to get started.  Materials include information such as Smart Trips Maps, cycling for adults and kids and even how to haul your groceries when you’re taking the bus. These are all free of charge to anyone participating in the program.

Smart Trips even offers basic bicycling skills for elementary school children as well as a more advanced education program that includes navigation, taking the bus and reading maps for middle school children. A summer camp that involves teaching how to get around the city and ends with a scavenger hunt leaves participating kids with a sense of independence and responsibility when it comes to traveling the community on their own.  The Seniors program gets our community seniors out for a fun, social trip while learning to navigate the city by bus.

whatcom smart trips
Out for some fun, Bellingham seniors learn how to use the WTA bus system to get around town through Whatcom Smart Trips. Photo credit: Kirsten Wert .

Over 200 employer partners including Peace Health, Family Care Network and Unity Care NW want to be a part of the program because they really want to do the right thing. They are able to create their own incentive programs tied directly to participation in Smart Trips.

“The benefits are endless with Smart Trips,” says Horst. “And what a great way to connect with the community while you walk, bike, take the bus or share a ride.”

To become a participant in the Smart Trips programs simply sign up for the Trip Diary online and get moving.

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