Business

Guess what? Price of gas pumps up ride options

The Mirror

With the price of gas around $3 a gallon, more people –– working commuters included –– are contacting Metro about transportation options.

Since May, transit ridership has increased every month when compared to the same time last year, according to Metro officials.

One way they can tell is the number of cars at Metro’s 123 park-and-ride lots. It’s been steadily climbing since spring. And during the month of August, there were more than 10,000 people listed in Metro’s Ridematch database –– the highest since RideshareOnline.com started service in 2001, officials said.

RideshareOnline matches people looking to commute by carpool or a Metro-sponsored vanpool, as well as people just looking to share a ride to a concert or sporting event.

The Ridematch numbers are rising “at an unprecedented rate,” said Cathy Blumenthal, chief of Rideshare. She said a recent survey showed about 29 percent of people who use RideshareOnline.com do so “because of the cost of driving” their own vehicles –– namely, the cost of gasoline.

Metro operates one of the largest public vanpool programs in the nation. More than 700 commuter vans operate on weekdays, some traveling into King County from as far away as Cle Elum or Burlington.

Blumenthal said vanpool ridership grew by 4 percent through July of this year, compared to the same period in 2004.

She said people who drive alone to their jobs in downtown Seattle may want to check out Metro’s commute programs before Sept. 24. That’s when the downtown Seattle transit tunnel is scheduled to close for up to two years, and new traffic restrictions will go into effect in the city’s central business district.

On that note, County Councilman Pete von Reichbauer, whose district includes Federal Way, recently called attention to the pending tunnel closure. He noted it will have an impact on constituents in his area whose transportation routes have included the tunnel.

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