Green digest // A bonus for your bus ride

A bonus for your bus ride

Metro Transit launched Ride to Rewards in November, a new rider loyalty program the bus, commuter train and light rail operator says is the first of its kind in the country.

The program is free for all Go-To Card holders age 18 or older, who will earn points redeemable for future fares or gift cards when they sign up for the program. Go-To Cards are rechargeable plastic fare cards that come in a variety of options, including the U-Pass and College Pass for area college students and Metropass offered by some Twin Cities businesses to their employees.

One week in, Ride to Rewards already had about 2,000 participating transit users, said Bob Gibbons, director of customer services for Metro Transit.

“That’s pretty good because all we did so far was Tweet it and issue a news release,” Gibbons said, adding that Metro Transit planned to use e-mail alerts and other means to attract new participants “in increments,” so as not to overwhelm ridetorewards.com, the program’s new website.

Once enrolled in the program, Ride to Reward participants earn a half-point every time they swipe their cards to pay for a ride on a bus or train, with the exception of transfers. Workday commuters who board once in the morning and once in the evening will earn one point every day.

The conversion of points into Go-To Card credit or gift cards is explained on the program’s website. If you do the math, each ride, or half-point, works out to roughly one cent of Ride to Rewards value.

That means the hypothetical workday commuter earning one point a day, five days a week, would require about 23 months to bank the 500 points required to earn $11 in Go-To Card credit. But the program isn’t designed to operate on rides alone, Gibbons said.

Points accumulate much faster when Go-To Card holders make purchases at Ride to Rewards’ merchant partners with a registered credit or debit card. Every dollar spent with that card at a participating business earns one point or one half-point.

The list of business partners was still fairly short a week after the Ride to Rewards launch — only 13 businesses at 23 individual locations as of Nov. 8 — but was expected to grow, Gibbons said.

Transit Treasures, a Florida-based start-up company, runs Ride to Rewards at no cost to Metro Transit and recruits new merchants into the program. Several Southwest-based businesses were among the first to sign on, including: FirstTech Computer, 2640 Hennepin Ave. S.; Schatzlein Saddle Shop, 413 W. Lake St.; Salon Levante, 3040 Hennpin Ave.; and The Family Wellness Institute, 4318 Upton Ave. S.

The “Daily Leaderboard” at ridetorewards.com gives program participants an easy way to gauge their point-collecting abilities against the top earners. A week after the program launch, several of Ride to Rewards’ top rider-spenders already were nearing 300 points.

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City promotes radon testing

Just before Halloween the city gave away free radon testing kits in an event at one of its Downtown administrative buildings.

It was appropriate timing, because the facts on radon can seem a little scary.

The Environmental Protection Agency reports radon-related lung cancer kills 21,000 people on average every year. That makes radon the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers and second only to cigarettes in causing cancer among smokers.

Radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas, is common in the mineral-rich soils of the upper Midwest. Colorless, odorless and tasteless, it seeps up through the ground and can collect in Minnesota’s well-insulated cold-climate homes, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

The state Health Department further reports about one-third of Minnesota’s homes have elevated levels of radon that, after years of exposure, could pose a significant risk to residents. The good news is that mitigation can significantly reduce the amount of radon entering a home.

The first step is to buy a radon kit to measure the radon levels in your home. They could hardly be easier to use; typically, they just hang in the basement for a few days before they’re mailed in to a testing center.

The testing kit giveaway was a one-day event, but the city is still selling the kits for only $9. They’re available for purchase 8 a.m.–4 p.m. Mon.–Wed. and Friday in room 300 of the Minneapolis Development Review building, 250 S. 4th St.

Visit the Minnesota Department of Health’s radon page (health.state.mn.us/radon) for more information on testing and mitigation.

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Enter the Legacy Amendment logo contest

The Department of Natural Resources needs a logo to identify projects funded by the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment and has invited Minnesotans of any age to submit their designs.

An amendment to the state constitution approved by voters in 2008, the Legacy Amendment dedicates a small portion of the state sales tax (0.375 percent) to arts, environmental and outdoors projects over the next 25 years. The funds collected through the amendment are distributed into four separate accounts: the Outdoor Heritage Fund, the Clean Water Fund, the Parks and Trails Fund and the Arts and Culture Heritage fund.

Artwork for the logo submissions should somehow incorporate all four aspects of the Legacy Amendment, according to logo contest guidelines posted at dnr.state.mn.us/legacylogo/index.html. The winning entry will be suitable for use on letterhead, websites, wood and metal signs, clothing, posters and other types of displays.

There’s no cash prize, just the reward of seeing your logo plastered on every Legacy Amendment project for the next quarter century.

Submissions are due by 11:59 p.m. Dec. 7. Email up to three entries to [email protected]

Reach Dylan Thomas at [email protected]