Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Pooling Resources

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Pooling Resources

Article excerpt

A new spin on an old alternative to driving solo

The car pools that have sprung up near the Interstate 75 exits in south Sarasota County aren't alone. They are part of a national trend that is aided and encouraged by government, employers and social networking sites.

It's easy to see why there's a growing interest in car pools, and why the potential advantages extend to commuters and drivers throughout Southwest Florida.

The carpoolers described in an article Monday by the Herald- Tribune's Thomas Becnel are motivated by personal economics: A solo commute from the North Port area to a job in Sarasota, Tampa or Fort Myers can cost $100 or more per month for gas. Sharing the ride splits the expense.

For local, state and federal governments and for businesses, there's a bigger picture. Carpooling means fewer cars on the road, which helps reduce traffic, pollution, fuel consumption, parking needs and other concerns.

Companies and employees can also receive federal tax breaks tied to the use of car and van pools and public transit.

A hill to climb

But proponents of ride sharing have a hill to climb. The number of people carpooling has remained around 10 percent for several years, according to U.S. Census surveys. About 5 percent of commuters use public transportation and 76 percent drive solo.

Hopes for changing those numbers led the Florida Department of Transportation in 2007 to launch Commuter Services, a program that works with businesses to help employees find better alternatives for getting to work. The program is active in a 12-county region that includes Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee and Collier counties.

Among the services offered is an online ride-match database that connects people with similar work schedules who live and work in the same general areas or even those who have occasional out-of-town errands or doctor's appointments. …

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