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Tri-County Council promotes ‘Rideshare'

  • Charles County,St Mary's County,Calvert County
  • By


Hughesville, MD –  There are days when the roads to and from work resemble parking lots. In Southern Maryland, as with much of the Mid-Atlantic Region, the traffic situation is expected to become much worse. Fortunately, there are efforts to get ahead of the curve and reduce the ongoing and anticipated gridlock. Finding a way to change the local commuters’ mindset is the job George Clark undertook a few years ago on behalf of the Tri-County Council of Southern Maryland. “I am one of nine transportation specialists in Maryland, Clark told TheBayNet.com. “My job is to get you out of your car.”

Both Calvert and Charles counties are home to workers who travel out of their respective communities to the Washington, DC Metropolitan area and jobs with the federal government. Clark explained that by arranging carpools, van pools, utilizing commuter bus service, promoting tele-working and several other programs, the local “Rideshare” program is alleviating traffic and easing highway congestion. The Rideshare program is sponsored by the Maryland Department of Transportation’s Maryland Transit Administration (MTA). The program incentivizes the traveling in groups by offering federal employees a benefit of $260 a month.

In addition to trying to get motor vehicles off the road, Rideshare also has as a mission the reduction of harmful emissions. “We are making a major dent—especially in emissions,” Clark stated proudly.

Clark undertook the mission of selling Rideshare to government employees several years ago after retiring from a long career in electronics. He promotes the program by attending “commuter fairs” at places like the Pentagon.

Having several Park and Ride lots in Southern Maryland—and allowing bus riders to park at the locations for free—has been one factor in making that component of Rideshare so successful. The use of seven vanpools, said Clark (shown at the left at a commuter fair) has resulted in 105 vehicles being moved off the road during daily rush hours. He added that budget cuts have had an adverse impact on van services because shuttle services are lost. Clark said he continues to work with St. Mary’s County and the Navy to bring the shuttle van back to Naval Air Station Patuxent River. That on-base service was ended in 2012 due to funding cuts.

For commuters concerned about being stranded at work with no personal transportation, MTA is now offering Guaranteed Ride Home (GRH). According to MTA, the GRH program “provides a free ride home for registered commuters in the Greater Baltimore/Washington region who take transit or carpool, vanpool, walk or bike to work at least twice weekly. In the event of a personal illness, unexpected family emergency or unscheduled overtime while you’re at work, GRH will arrange for a free taxi ride, free transit ride or even a free rental car up to four times each year to get you home.” State transit officials GRH cannot be used for weather emergencies, previously scheduled medical appointments, personal errands, business-related travel, working late without a supervisor’s request. The GRH program is free, excluding taxes, fuel and gratuity.  More information on GRH is available at www.mta.maryland.gov.

Clark told TheBayNet.com that GRH “is very popular” and transportation officials are hoping to expand it.

Other efforts Clark and other transportation specialists are trying to expand to lighten the volume of rush hour traffic include teleworking and flex time. Clark said teleworking has started picking up momentum in the past six years and currently about 38 percent of the workforce implements some measure of telework. Friday seems to be the most popular telework day, as many companies allow it on that day or every other Friday. According to Clark, selling the concept of telework as a method that benefits companies is one of his challenges. The flex time concept helps vary the time when vehicles are on the road, helping avert jams created by adherence to the traditional 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. work schedule.

To obtain more information about Rideshare in Southern Maryland, contact George Clark by telephone at 301-274-1922 or 301-870-2520, by email at gclark@tccsmd.org. Visit the Tri-County Council of Southern Maryland web site at www.tccsmd.org

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com

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