The Franklin News-Post|
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
With its recent expansion to the Lynchburg region, the RIDE Solutions commuter assistance program wants to help long-distance drivers in Southside cut their commuting expenses.
"Last year we worked with some stakeholders in Franklin County, Rocky Mount, Martinsville and West Piedmont to look at commuter behavior and needs in the region," said RIDE Solutions Program Director Jeremy Holmes. "We confirmed something we had long guessed at -- commuters in that area typically drive much, much farther to work than folks in the core metro, and have access to fewer options."
The length of their commutes makes them very susceptible to even small increases in gas prices, Holmes said.
"However, we also identified that most of those folks have the same handful of destinations -- mostly Rocky Mount and Roanoke -- and most of them travel on 40 or 220 at some point to get there," he added. "It would be relatively easy to provide carpool match options to those folks if we can get them into the database."
Holmes estimates that commuters traveling from Southside to jobs in the Roanoke or Lynchburg areas may be spending up to $4,000 a year on gas alone. RIDE Solutions wants to help commuters cut those costs and keep more money in the local economy.
"Americans spend more on transportation costs than food, clothing and healthcare combined," Holmes said. "In areas where job opportunities may be limited, commuters can feel as if they are at the mercy of the gas pump when it comes to the expense of getting to work. RIDE Solutions wants to change that and help these commuters keep more of their hard-earned money in their pockets."
Long distance commuters rarely have access to many options, but the RIDE Solutions program offers an alternative. Their carpool matching database contains thousands of commuters from across the region who are looking to start a new carpool or grow an existing one.
The RIDE Solutions' GIS-based ridematching system can connect commuters by origin, destination and work schedule, and uses meeting places such as park-and-rides to help commuters find a match.
Commuters are provided with a list of qualifying partners, and once they're in the system, RIDE Solutions continues looking for new opportunities to start or grow a carpool as long as a commuter remains in the database.
RIDE Solutions is a free program. Anyone commuting into or out of its service area can use it at no cost.
"An average carpooler saves over $3,000 a year by sharing a ride to work with just one other person," Holmes said. "Carpooling is a free, simple and almost instant way to begin saving money and protecting yourself against a volatile oil market and skyrocketing prices."
Commuters can register with RIDE Solutions at www.ridesolutions.org. Registration can also be handled over the phone by calling (866) 424-3334.
"Our challenge with more rural commuters has always been to get them to register," said Holmes. "Registration with us is free and comes with no obligation. One doesn't have to join a carpool immediately or at all, and joining a carpool doesn't require one to carpool every day. It could be once or twice a week, or even just a handful of times a month.
Holmes said that often, rural commuters feel they wouldn't be able to find a match."
RIDE Solutions is a commuter services program operated by the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission in cooperation with the New River Valley Planning District Commission and Region 2000. It provides multimodal trip planning services, including carpool matching, bicycle commute routing, transit assistance and telework consultation, for citizens and employers in central and southwest Virginia.
"We have a particular focus on Franklin County and the surrounding area this year," said Holmes. "We are working hard to let people know what is available to them, that the service is free and that they can start saving money immediately."