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Share the Ride

Katie Huston - September 13th, 2007
So you want to reduce your transportation costs and save the environment, but you’re not about to invest in a new gadget or hybrid car? Consider an alternative that doesn’t require any new gadgets or investments - namely, ride sharing.
The Northwest Michigan Transportation Alliance (NMTA) has set up a website, www.nmride.net, where people can request and offer rides. The website also offers tips, etiquette, and safety information.
Although the program has been around since October 2006, not a lot of people have tapped into it yet. “It’s just in its infancy, and we hope it’s going to grow bigger and catch on,” said Michelle Goetz Grahl, director of NMTA. “Unfortunately, with this kind of thing, you need sort of a critical mass before those matches really happen, and we’re not there yet.”
Her impetus for creating the program was twofold: a need for transport, and a desire to reduce emissions and save costs.
“We’ve found out from the poverty reduction initiative that transportation is a barrier to folks keeping jobs,” said Grahl. “If you’re in a service industry job where you’re working nights and weekends, your public transport options are probably very limited.”

ROUGH OUT THERE
Ride sharing can help everyone to cut their CO2 emissions and transportation costs, Grahl said. “Churches were telling us that they’ve been getting more and more requests for gas cards. We know it’s rough for people out there.”
According to the cost calculator on the NMTA’s website, a 20-mile round-trip commute in a medium sedan, five days a week, would cost about $636 per year. Sharing the ride with just one other person would half your costs, to $318. “It’s friendly to your economic bottom line and the environmental bottom line,” said Grahl.
Ride sharing is popular in certain parts of the country, like Washington, D.C. and many cities on the West Coast. However, it’s most common in urban areas. “We knew it would be a challenge here,” Grahl said. “I had no expectations that it would be instantly popular.”
And in the auto state, she added, ride sharing contradicts our culture. “The idea of everybody not driving their personal vehicle everywhere goes against our culture here in Michigan,” she said.
Grahl acknowledged safety concerns, and suggested meeting with a ride-sharing partner in a neutral location, like getting together for coffee, to see if you feel comfortable.
“I figured if you can do this in New York City and Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, I don’t think it’s that much scarier here. People just have to take the common sense precautions,” she said.

RIDE ETIQUETTE
There’s ride share etiquette to follow, of course. The website offers advice, such as agreeing on cost splits and rules beforehand, being on time, and even avoiding too much cologne.
A ride-share network in Northern Michigan can cover the entire region, she says, depending on what people can offer. “You don’t have to do it every day,” she said. “You can just do it a couple of days a week.”
And ride sharing can be fun, too. “You get to meet new people, and it’s a lot less stressful than driving by yourself,” Grahl said.
“I just hope that people look at it (as an option,) that people who have rides to give actually consider sharing, and that we get thousands of people registered.” When people get involved, she said, regional ride sharing can really take off.

For more information, visit
www.nmride.net or call 933-5542.

 
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