OCTA CEO: Kick-starting new routines this fall for commuters

Posted on September 27, 2011 by Will Kempton

It’s that time of year when the leaves are beginning to change colors (although in Orange County we’re still enjoying our sunshine) and kids are heading back to school.

While my children are grown, September still brings with it the comforts of fall, which has always meant returning to a routine. But in Orange County and across the nation, transit agencies are hoping to convince people to try a new routine, one that doesn’t require them to drive solo.

Rideshare Week, which kicks off Oct. 3, is an annual event that focuses on the importance of commuters sharing the ride to get to where they need or want to go. It encourages employers and their employees to take the bus or train, vanpool, carpool, walk or ride a bike.

Here at Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) our marketing staff has put together a campaign to promote the week and worked with the community to offer incentives for those who choose to participate. Commuters in Orange County can pledge to share the ride one or more days throughout the week, and those who do, have a chance to win a variety of prizes including iPads, gift certificates, Disneyland tickets and a bike gift basket, which all have been donated.

There are many reasons why people may choose to rideshare. For some, it saves them time or the headache from traffic, and for others like David Styffe, it’s the financial savings along with the satisfaction of being environmentally conscious.

“I used to drive alone, but I recently started commuting on the bus from my home in Fullerton to my job in Santa Ana,” said Styffe, an Orange County commuter who in May began taking public transit. “My main reason to start riding the bus was to save money. I also appreciate the fact that I'm doing something environmentally and socially beneficial.  I was surprised about how good it feels.”

It is our job, as transportation agencies, to educate the public about the benefits of sharing the ride and provide incentives that encourage people to experiment with alternative transportation modes.

Very often the fear of trying something new keeps commuters away from public transit, but once they try our services they see how easy, efficient and relaxing it really can be.

Rideshare Week is just one part of OCTA’s efforts to encourage alternative forms of transportation. We also host Bike to Work Week, hold bike workshops and safety classes, subsidize the cost for vanpools and offer special transit passes to employers. In addition, OCTA is encouraging the use of commuter-rail service for recreational use by offering more train service to special events such as baseball games, concerts and the Del Mar Racetrack.

Together, these programs are bringing to light the benefits of ride sharing and ultimately should help make a dent in Southern California’s car culture.

For more information about OCTA’s Rideshare program, visit www.octa.net/sharetheride.

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Read our METRO blog, "Is public transit doomed for good?"

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