ATLANTA (AP) _ For more than a decade, Georgia's Clean Air Campaign has been setting up car pools and showering Atlanta commuters with rewards for giving up their lonely commute in hopes of keeping drivers off traffic-choked streets.
Now the group is setting their sites on another target: The soldiers and civilians packing state military bases.
It's a new strategy for the group, which has long partnered with Atlanta employers to curb the gush of drivers packing the city's roadways. But it's one that already seems to be paying off.
More than 1,500 soldiers and employees at Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins filled out applications for the program during a weeklong event in October, and another 200 have signed up this month in Fort Benning in Columbus.
"Both facilities have parking shortages," said Kevin Green, the campaign's director. "And there's a compelling challenge with a lot of vehicles coming on the base, security and limited parking."
Reaching out to military bases seems a natural fit for the campaign.
The Environmental Protection Agency is closely monitoring air quality in both Columbus and Macon, which is already on the government's list of ozone and soot violators. And while traffic in the communities isn't nearly as stifling as Atlanta, long security lines and limited parking converge near the bases to create a nightmarish situation.
"Anything they can do to cut down on traffic makes sense," said Green.
The participants get the same incentives that the program's one-of-a-kind Cash for Commuter program offers, paying out $3 per day — up to $180 over three months — to single-car commuters giving up their daily drive. And each car pool group can get as much as $60 a month for a year.
The campaign plans to continue reaching out to the soldiers and contractors at the two sites next year, and could expand to Fort Gordon, a base outside of Augusta.
It marks the first time that the campaign, which has long partnered with Atlanta employers to curb the gush of drivers packing city roadways, has focused on military bases. The group claims to reduce more than 780,000 miles of driving and 1.66 tons of air pollution in metro Atlanta each day.