As gas prices have marched steadily upward, so have the number of commuters looking for alternatives. David McMaster is the project director for the regional van pool program, which is administered by METRO. He says 40 new van pools have been added since April.
“The last three months we’ve seen a higher rate of growth than we recall ever seeing before. We’ve had some good growth spurts at other times when fuel prices have risen or we’ve had a lot of good support from employers that were sponsoring the program who came on-board with nice incentives and gave us good access to their employees to promote the service, but never this rate of growth in a month.”
Car pools have also become more popular over the past few months. The Commute Solutions NuRide program now has almost 10-thousand participants in the Houston-area. Commute Solutions director Veronica Baxter-Lamb says it’s not just commuters who are asking questions.
“We have not, in the 15 years since the Commute Solutions program has been in existence, we’ve not seen this many employers contacting us directly asking for us to come out and maybe do presentations to their upper-management to develop ways that the company can help their employees to get to work, because of the high cost of gasoline.”
The Houston region still falls under the federal non-attainment category for ground level ozone levels. Baxter-Lamb says high gas prices have been a blessing in disguise when it comes to clean air.
“One day trip reduction, the emissions that are reduced as a result of that, the number of trips and vehicle miles traveled reduced, helps and everybody has a responsibility to help clean our air. The problem didn’t start overnight and we can’t solve it overnight. It takes time, but we’re convinced that we can reach attainment.”