August 10, 2008
Car pooling

Add this to the growing list of stories about how people are adapting to higher gas prices.

NuRide is one of several alternatives to single-occupant commuting that the Houston-Galveston Area Council is promoting during August -- traditionally designated Commute Solutions Month in Houston.

The annual drive needs less promotion this year than usual. Since gasoline prices have hovered near $4 a gallon, for instance, Metropolitan Transit Authority ridership -- especially on the Park & Ride commuter routes -- is booming so fast that the parking lots are full and buses are often standing room only.

NuRide differs from most car pools in that participants can schedule rides online as needed and not be committed to the same trip and fellow riders every day. Program sponsors pay incentives to participants, including restaurant coupons, gift certificates and event tickets.


The Metropolitan Transit Authority has its own ride-sharing programs, including MetroVans that carry seven to 15 riders. The fare for these depends on several factors, including the length of the commute, but Metro says those who ride 12 times a month receive a $35 incentive, so the typical fare works out to $2 to $4 per trip.

The driver is responsible for fueling and cleaning the leased van and keeping the necessary records, while the riders contribute to the cost. Maintenance and insurance are covered by the van provider.

This year's Commute Solutions drive kicked off Thursday at Greenway Plaza, where a new TREK Houston bus and a Smart Car were on display.

TREK is a Park & Ride-type service from Sugar Land to Greenway Plaza and the Galleria.

Tiffany participated in a van pool for years when she worked in The Woodlands. It was a great deal for many reasons besides cost (where thanks to a company subsidy it was basically free) - it enforced a regular work schedule, it was an opportunity to get to know co-workers who lived nearby, and it was less stressful because she didn't have to drive. Obviously, not every can participate in a program like this. But there are options, maybe more than you think, if you want to drive less.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 10, 2008 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
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