Corrections or additions?

This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the

September 19, 2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights

reserved.

Give Carpooling a Chance

Entreaties to commuters have been ratcheted down a notch

or two as the years have gone by, and it has become abundantly clear

that suburban man will not be separated from his

climate-controlled

chariot. Indeed, the vehicles have been fitted out with drink holders

commodious enough to carry enough coffee for the longest traffic jam.

There are ports for laptops, too, and hands-free phones to give

commuters

a start on the business day.

No, there will be no switch to semi-private transportation. As for

public transportation, well, that ship has sailed, so to speak. Still,

groups trying to push the average headcount in commuting cars a little

above one have not given up. Not entirely.

On Tuesday, September 25, RideWise of Raritan Valley is sponsoring

its first-ever Traffic Buster Day. The plan, explains spokesperson

Donna McDonough, is to find specimens of that rare species —

the carpooler — or to match those willing to give the arrangement

a try. Once identified, carpoolers are being asked to share a ride

to work for just one day. Adventurous types who sign up will

be rewarded with a free T-shirt and will be eligible for prizes,

including

$100 and $300 gift certificates. Call 908-704-1011, ext. 14, for a

registration form.

Keeping her expectations realistic, McDonough says, "We know not

everyone can ride share all the time, but we’re hoping they’ll do

it on this one day."

A lot of people are turned off by carpooling, she says, because they

see it as a full-time commitment. It doesn’t have to be, though, she

is most anxious to inform commuters. Just because they agree to ride

the passenger seat once does not mean they will have to do so forever.

"Think of it as time off from the commute," urges McDonough.

Traffic Buster Day is open to anyone who works in Somerset County,

home to a big stretch of Route 206, a piece of Route 287, and the

reconfigured, but still oh-so-tricky Somerville Circle. Asked about

traffic in the county, McDonough says, "It’s not getting any

better.

It’s not decreasing. There are so many big companies, so many new

housing developments. All it takes is one little accident and traffic

is backed up for miles, for hours."

One barrier to ride sharing, says McDonough, is a perception among

commuters that their rides to work are too short for such an

arrangement.

Those traveling only 20 to 30 minutes tend to believe ride sharing

is only for their co-workers in Pennsylvania or at the Jersey Shore.

But McDonough says fully half of Somerset County’s workers live within

30 minutes of their offices, and getting a percentage of them into

the passenger seat would ease traffic considerably.

And does McDonough herself ride share? "My name is in the

computer,"

she says, "but no match has come up." There are a number of

possible ride share mates near her home in Morristown, but none work

close enough to her office, in downtown Somerville, to make the

arrangement

convenient. It is a fair bet that versions of McDonough’s story, some

featuring day care pick-up times, others after-work Pilates

appointments

or pre-work runs to the dry cleaners, fill the suburban landscape.

But RideWise is soldiering on, using its Traffic Busters Day not only

to encourage carpooling, but also to build a database of those

revolutionary

souls who are willing to wave good-bye not only to the spouse and

the dog in the morning, but also to the SUV.


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