Legislation will soon force many companies with work forces of 100 or more people to discourage employees from driving their own cars to work. Under the 1990 Clean Air Act, companies in several states must soon submit plans to encourage, for example, carpooling. Three years ago, on its own initiative, Alaska Biological Research (ABR), near Fairbanks, started such a program.

Employee car use increases at ABR during Alaska's harsh winters, so the company offers its incentive program from November through March. About half of ABR's 22 employees participate. Forty percent of those carpool, earning $1.50 a day each for doing so. Those who use no cars at all earn $3 a day. Some employees walk, a few diehard athletes bicycle all winter, and one employee skis six miles each way, mushing two dogs in front of him.

The program costs ABR only about $645 each winter. (Many employees waive the reimbursement.) By offering the incentive, the $2.5-million company has avoided a costly expansion of its parking lot and saves about $300 each winter in reduced use of the company-sponsored plug-in car heaters in the lot. Plus, employees save hundreds of gallons of gas each year, and for CEO Bob Ritchie, that's the real payoff.

-- Phaedra Hise

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To check on the status of your state's Employee Commute Options (ECO) program, contact your local department of transportation, department of natural resources, or branch of the Environmental Protection Agency.

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