By Jim Cameron
How’d you like to save thousands of dollars in commuting costs by car? And at the same time cut the number of vehicles on our highways?
The answer: ride sharing.
With the sudden surge in gasoline prices there’s renewed interest in car / van pooling, as the folks at CTrides can attest. They’re the state agency tasked with selling the idea of “green rides”, though I think it’s the green in your wallet that most captures commuters’ attention these days, not just saving the environment.
But it is true that 38% of all greenhouse gases come from transportation and with the vast majority of car commuters driving solo, sharing the ride can certainly cut down on Connecticut’s terrible air quality, worse in some areas than California’s.
Remember our clear blue skies at the start of the pandemic when nobody was driving?
Census data shows that 76% of commuters drive solo while about 8% share their ride. Transit accounts for only 4.5% while telework (WFH) is about 7%, but climbing. In Fairfield county transit and telework numbers are much higher given the time and cost involved with getting to jobs in NYC. The long term effects of work-from-home are yet to be seen.
The CTrides folks promote all the alternatives to solo driving, ironic for an agency funded by the CDOT which spends billions on our roads.
But the excuses for not sharing a ride are many:
“I like driving my own car by myself”. Well, do you like pay for gasoline and car repairs by yourself, too?
“My work schedule is always changing”. CTrides can match you with others also on your ever-changing schedule.
“What if I need to get home mid-day in an emergency?” CDOT sponsors an Emergency Ride Home program for enrolled companies, paying as much as $200 for an Uber up to four times a year.
There are plenty of benefits that come with ride sharing, aside from the cost savings. Some interstates (I-91 and I-84) offer diamond lanes for car poolers.
Employers often offer preferred parking spots at work.
There’s even a federal commuter tax benefit of up to $280 a month for enrolled employees at companies. Talk to your company’s HR department for details.
Still hesitant to share your ride? Thousands do it daily on commuter rail with up to 100 passengers in a single (rail) car: ride sharing on steroids!
Employers find that carpooling often increases morale and employee retention, even if your crew doesn’t join in comedian James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke”.
CTrides also promotes rail and bus ridership as well as telework… anything to get SOVs (single occupancy vehicles) off the road. They’re optimistic that the increasing costs of gasoline will encourage more commuters to ride share.
To sweeten the pot even more, CTrides offers a rewards program. Just download their app, set up an account and log your “green rides”. Accumulate enough points and you win restaurant discounts and cut-rate tickets to shows and attractions. Participants save money and the environment.
JIM CAMERON has lived in Darien for over 25 years. He serves on the Darien RTM and is Program Director of Darien TV79. He served 19 years on the CT Metro-North Rail Commuter Council, four as its Chairman. In 2014 he founded a new advocacy group, The Commuter Action Group which speaks on behalf of Metro-North riders. His newspaper column “Talking Transportation” archives can be found at http://talkingtransportation.blogspot.com/