Commuters put brakes on program 

In the past five years, a nonprofit has paid for more than 6,000 people to carpool and split the bill for more than 275 bike racks and lockers in San Mateo County. But in some cases, fewer people have been using the resources.

It wasn’t a significant drop, but in 2008, Commute.org — a nonprofit funded by major transportation agencies such as the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District — paid for half of 77 bike lockers.

In 2009, that number dropped to 67.

“And so far this year, it looks like we’re on the same pace,” Commute.org Executive Director Christine Maley-Grubl said. “I think it’s just a result of the economy. Less people have jobs so less people are commuting.”

Current demand just broaches the $40,000 the organization sets aside every year specifically for the locks and racks — but the point is to use it all, not have money left over.

The nonprofit has been around for a decade, but in order for programs to get the funding they need, there has to be a demand for it, Maley-Grubl said.

According to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, San Mateo County commuters account for 13,000 of 81,000 weekday bicycle rides in the Bay Area and 9,000 of 46,000 on the weekends.

The carpool program — in which two people earn a $60 gas card for agreeing to start riding in one car instead of two — saw a minor increase, according to reports.

In 2008, 1,401 people applied for the card, and that number increased to 1,437 people in 2009. Those numbers have almost doubled since five years ago. In 2005, the MTC paid for 731 gas cards.

The nonprofit also provides free tickets for first-time BART or other transit riders, shuttle services and a carpool matching program.

“With the exception, of course, of the economy affecting jobs, for the past maybe three or four years, there’s been more interest in general for these commuting alternative programs,” Maley-Grubl said.

 

Traveler resources

People using transportation agency-funded carpool and bike programs in San Mateo County:

Carpool incentive program
2005    731
2006    1,256
2007    1,476
2008    1,401
2009    1,437

Bike rack and locker incentive program
2005    
27
2006    59
2007    60
2008    77
2009    67

Source: Commute.org

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Kamala Kelkar

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