CourierPostOnline

As Gas Soars, So Does Carpooling

CourierPostOnline — Sunday, March 30, 2008

By EILEEN SMITH
Courier-Post Staff

MARLTON — Cross County Connections has been helping companies to establish carpools for 20 years in a drive to make South Jersey a greener place.

But the notion has grown like corn in July since gas prices sprouted and consumers have become more conscious of the green in their wallets.

"There's been a steady increase in carpooling in the past year, which is directly related to gas prices," said Ronda Urkowitz, program director.

She helps employers such as L-3 Communications, Verizon and Burlington County College establish carpool programs and other energy-saving initiatives, such as telecommuting and compressed work weeks.

At Lockheed Martin in Moorestown, where 5,000 people work, 100 employees have organized carpools, said Ken Walters, environmental and safety adviser. The defense contractor also offers options for working from home and flexible hours.

"For this kind of plant, we think we've had a pretty good response and we hope that will continue," Walters said.

In the Carpooling Makes $ense program sponsored by the N.J. Department of Transportation, commuters who share the ride receive a $100 gas card for carpooling 24 out of 60 days. Cross County ups the ante another $100 for commuters who continue to carpool for another six months.

Participation in the program has zoomed from 118 carpools in November 2006 to nearly 5,000 in November 2007, said spokesman Timothy Greeley.

The state doesn't keep records on commuters who form their own carpools.

Wende Nachman, director of the New Jersey Citizen Action Oil Group in Camden, started sharing the ride from her home in Sicklerville with her husband, who works in Haddonfield.

"He has a pickup and I have a Honda," she said. "We carpool in the Honda because it costs $40 to fill it up and the pickup costs $80."

The bottom line: the couple reduced the pickup's monthly fuel consumption from four tanks of gas to one, an average savings of $240.

"We're also helping the environment," Nachman said.

Consumers who telecommute or take alternative transportation at least once a week are eligible for the Caring Commuter program, in which they receive a card good for discounts from participating merchants.

"Even that one day working from home or riding the bus or a bike makes a big difference to the environment," Urkowitz said.

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