A vehicle for savings Featured

9:55am EDT July 22, 2002

Denise Berryman-Lennon lives 60 miles from her job as human resources manager at the Ohio Department of Youth Services.

Yet every day, she drives just 20 miles to get to work.

Since 1986, Berryman-Lennon has saved time, money and wear on her car by carpooling downtown from her home in Yellow Springs. In 1990, that became easier as she found rides through the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission’s Commuter Assistance Program.

She’s used the program’s vanpools, but currently rides in a car with four other people traveling from the Springfield and Yellow Springs area. Two of them work at other state agencies, one works for a subsidiary of Borden, and one is a student at The Ohio State University.

Berryman-Lennon pays $50 a month toward the carpool; if she were driving on her own, gas and parking would cost her $280 a month. She also gets the benefit of added time, because she’s not driving; she’s lucky enough that one member of her carpool prefers to drive every day.

“I love to get an extra hour nap in before I arrive to work, and in the evening it’s a nice winding down time for me,” she says.

The Commuter Assistance Program has supplied carpool, vanpool and COTA information to employees of 250 businesses or agencies in an 11-county Central Ohio area, says Traci Kalra, the program’s manager.

Often, program representatives first distribute surveys to employees to determine their interest in the program; then, they’ll visit the employer to provide more information.

“We coordinate what we call transportation fairs or transportation expos, where we can have one-on-one contact with employees in an informal setting so we can explain our services,” Kalra says.

Other services, all free to employers and employees, include:

  • Guaranteed Ride Home, entitling those registered for the program to a 90 percent reimbursement of a taxi trip home if an emergency or schedule change causes the commuter to miss his or her carpool after work.

  • Information from a database of more than 7,000 people interested in ridesharing. “Say an employee is interested in carpooling. We’ll supply them with a list of other individuals who have compatible schedules and home and work locations,” Kalra says, noting that contact phone numbers are included for individuals within a 1.5-mile radius of the commuter’s home.

  • Assistance to employers moving into or within the Central Ohio area whose employees have changing commuter needs.

Bonnie Crockett, facilities manager at the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and another rideshare program participant, says the Commuter Assistance Program has helped employees there find carpools since the agency moved downtown in December.

“When we moved from suburban areas to downtown, we knew parking would be an expense; access to your vehicle would be limited; and it would be a lot more stressful,” Crockett says. About 10 percent of the EPA’s 700 employees are registered to receive rideshare information.

Berryman-Lennon points out that rideshare participants have to accept that they will not have access to a vehicle during the day — unless, of course, they are the carpool driver; they might have to slightly adjust their work schedule; and they must be comfortable riding in a car with a group of people.

“There are some sacrifices that have to be made,” she says. “You have to decide what’s important — the extra half hour or 45 minutes of time or paying and doing it all on your own.” How to reach: Commuter Assistance Program, (800) 875-7665, or www.morpc.org/comm