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For the week of November 22 through 28, 2000

Rideshare recruits carpoolers

American genius has mastered space flight, the simultaneous movement of billions of bytes per second on the Internet and even the cloning of life.

But no such sure-fire whiz-kid solution has yet been devised for an old demon – auto traffic congestion.

For starters, the problem and the solution can be found in the same place – the passionate American love affair for the automobile.

So long as drivers resist giving up their vehicles (the solution), then roads will be more congested (the problem).

On a smaller scale than the jammed roads in urban areas, the Wood River Valley is suffering the consequences of auto addiction.

The area’s cities are finding parking spaces in short supply, and Highway 75 between Ketchum and Bellevue is so jammed with traffic going north in the morning and south in the afternoon that a normal 25-minute commute in that stretch can become an hour-long adventure.

Not even the widening of Highway 75 is the ultimate answer: traffic jams would continue as vehicles funneled into downtown city centers of valley communities.

So, encouraging some commuters to abandon their cars and become riders in car pools offers a giant leap toward easing the problem.

With funds from the city of Ketchum, from Blaine County and the Idaho Department of Transportation, the Wood River Rideshare project is aggressively recruiting carpoolers and riders to drastically reduce the number of vehicles using Highway 75. The project’s objective is simplicity itself: to collect names of people interested in sharing commute rides to and from work, and match the names in a computer database with drivers.

Hundreds of car trips per day could be eliminated among drivers who don’t use their vehicles during the day, but merely park and leave them at work and could share a ride in another car.

For commuters who need to leave work early or for emergencies, not to worry: Rideshare promises to arrange for cost-free alternate transportation.

The burden for reducing traffic, however, shouldn’t fall on commuters alone. Employers can provide incentives to lure workers out of their cars – perhaps cash bonuses or gifts, as well as staggered work shifts to spread commutes over various times of the morning and afternoon, even providing carpool vehicles to transport employees to and from their workplaces.

And there’s this not to be overlooked: drivers who give up their cars to ride in a carpool also are saving the costs of gasoline that can only increase over time.

In time, if enough drivers demonstrate a willingness to give up their vehicles for alternate transportation, then other elements may be introduced into traffic reduction – perhaps an intra-valley public transit system.


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