Monday, January 4, 2010

Ride Solutions nears thousandth participant

By Montgomery Publishing

Ride Solutions is just shy of having 1,000 participants in its database, according to Program Director Jeremy Holmes.

That means that almost 1,000 people are carpooling to work every day in the New River Valley and Roanoke areas. On top of that, Ride Solutions is serving approximately 40,000 people indirectly by providing information to them and their employers.

Public transportation is an important part of Ride Solutions, as is car-pooling. Photo by Lauren Page

Public transportation is an important part of Ride Solutions, as is car-pooling. Photo by Lauren Page

Holmes says he believes he and the others at Ride Solutions are helping to save the world by finding carpool matches for residents of the Roanoke and New River valleys. That is what Ride Solutions is all about.

“At its core, we’re really a commuter assistance program,” Holmes said. “We try to get people out of their cars.”

Holmes and the others at Ride Solutions are doing this by offering free carpool matching to and from work. The program, which is part of the Roanoke Valley-Allegheny Regional Commission and the New River District Planning Commission, uses computer mapping software to match commuters based on where they live and where they work.

The advantages of carpool matching are four-fold. First, and most important, commuters can save at least $1,000 per year by carpooling with just one other person.

“In 2008, the most important thing we did was give people a solution to $4 gas prices,” Holmes said.

Carpooling also reduces congestion. Third, it reduces unnecessary energy consumption. Finally, carpooling improves air quality in the region.

Air quality is the reason that Ride Solutions was started in the first place. In 2001, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warned Roanoke that it was over the safe ozone level. Roanoke was asked to create an Early Action Plan, meaning that if they did not fix the ozone problems themselves, they would get into trouble.

Roanoke has since reached a safe ozone level, but it has continued with Ride Solutions to maintain a safe level.

Along with the carpool matching, Ride Solutions also partners with businesses to create a free customized program to help them reduce their carbon footprint. Ride Solutions can provide brochures, hold information sessions, or even help install bike racks. Ride Solutions assisted in helping Carilion install 25 bike racks on their property, encouraging employees to bike to work.  There are several employer partners in the New River Valley, including Cox Communications, Draper Aden, Town of Blacksburg, Montgomery County, Montgomery County Schools, Virginia Tech, Kollmorgen, Echostar, New River Community College and others.

More information about Ride Solutions, including a calculator to estimate commuting costs, is available on their website, ridesolutions.org.

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