Here’s a sit-up-and-take-notice statistic: if you commute 20 miles a day (one-way) to work, it can cost $7,000 a year – and by deciding to carpool, commuters can cut that cost in half. So, how exactly does one find a carpool buddy? Incredible as it may seem, the government is here to help. The Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT) has developed commuter services designed to meet the needs of commuters and employers. CTrides is the network of employer and employee support programs that endorse a variety of alternatives to driving alone - carpooling, vanpooling, riding the bus and train or telecommuting - resulting in improved air quality, reduced traffic congestion and a better quality of life for all. Not to mention the potential to save consumers money.
If you would like to figure out just how much you might save, well, there’s an app for that, sort of. The CTrides website has a link where you can punch in the numbers and come away with estimated savings.
Working with employers across the state (103 employers signed up so far), CTrides seeks to improve commuter mobility to help sustain the growth and vitality of the state’s economy and make the state more competitive in the employment marketplace. Since the CT Rides initiative was launched – less than a year ago – the number of people taking advantage of ride-matching and ride-sharing is substantial.
The Nuride program, for example, has seen 670 Nuriders pre-register since October 2011. They are using the website to locate carpool candidates, and tracking all of their “green” commuting to earn rewards, at locations such as Barnes & Noble, Applebee’s and Mystic Aquarium. To date, the Nuriders have saved an estimated $136,919 in commuting costs. Nuride is offered in seven areas of the country, including Connecticut. The others are Houston, the District of Columbia, Richmond and Hampton Roads, VA, and Massachusetts.
Officials also point out that there are tax benefits to the CTrides program. Federal law allows tax savings for commuters who travel to work by train, bus or vanpool. An employer sets up a program (with the help of a CTrides representative) that allows an employee to set aside up to $125 per month of salary before taxes to pay for transit or vanpool fares. An employee may also set aside up to $240 per month for qualified parking. Tax savings, officials report, can be more than $800 a year.
For those hesitant to give up their vehicles, there is even a free trial ride offer. ConnDOT is offering commuters a free trial ride to work on state-subsidized buses and existing Easy Street® vanpool routes with available seats. The free trial ride consists of a 10-trip bus pass or a free week using an Easy Street® vanpool.
For information, CTrides can be contacted at 1-877-CTrides (1-877-287-4337).