WASHINGTON — The United States Mint has chosen four pilot cities to test new efforts to encourage regular use of the $1 coin. A series of events at popular attractions and retailers, as well as television, radio, newspaper and online communications, seeks to make residents of Austin, Texas; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Portland, Ore.; and Charlotte, N.C., aware of the benefits of regularly using the $1 coin. The campaign begins this month.“This is the first program of its kind to inspire shoppers, diners and commuters to use $1 coins in their normal, everyday activities,” says Ed Moy, United States Mint director. “When each of us spends the $1 coin, we make a difference for our country, because the $1 coin is durable, and using it saves the nation money. We hope our pilot cities lead the change!”The $1 coin lasts for decades and is 100% recyclable, so using it can save the country billions of dollars over the years, according to the Mint.The promotional events are designed to encourage the chosen cities to appreciate the benefits of the $1 coin and use it regularly, prompting the cities to set a new trend in money usage that the entire country will follow. The four sites were chosen because they are known as unique, yet all-American cities, the Mint says.Dollar coins have been a part of America's currency for decades, but they have not been widely used interchangeably with paper money. The $1 coin offers people speed and convenience when used at grocery stores, restaurants and movie theaters, or when these coins are dropped into vending machines, parking meters or fare boxes, the Mint says.The Presidential $1 Coin Act of 2005 supports the pilot program. The Presidential $1 Coin Program, which began in 2007 with the release of the George Washington presidential $1 coin, honors U.S. presidents in the order that they served. The Mint issues four presidential $1 coins per year, with coins honoring Presidents James Monroe, John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson released so far this year and Martin Van Buren also scheduled for release in 2008. The Mint has produced more than one billion new $1 coins since 2007.