REDMOND, Wash. – As commuters turn to vanpools, carpools and other means of ride-sharing to ease the rising cost of gasoline, King County and area businesses are offering incentives to tempt more people to do the same.
Since June, Paul Houldridge has piled in a van with fellow Microsoft workers to commute between North Bend and Redmond. With combined incentives from Microsoft and the city, Houldridge’s group has been driving for free.
“When we started, prices were high but not skyrocketing as they have recently,” Houldridge said. “Now that they’ve gone up, we’re glad we’re not spending our own money.”
King County is offering a Freewheeling incentive program through Oct. 31, with cash rewards for new vanpool members and those who recruit members for its 700 vanpools.
Houldridge is one of thousands who have registered with RideShare-Online.com, a program that matches drivers interested in carpooling.
Nearly 10,000 people had signed up for the ride-match program by Aug. 25, up more than 3,000 from the numbers in August last year, according to figures from Cathy Blumenthal, Metro’s chief of ride-share operations.
In a survey conducted Aug. 15-19 of 1,163 new ride-match users, 15 percent said they wanted to save energy or help the environment, but 30 percent said they wanted to offset the cost of gasoline.
The average price of regular gasoline in Washington state on Sunday was $2.82 per gallon, 5 cents below the national average, according to AAA’s Web site. That’s up from the state average of $2.49 a gallon a month ago and the average of $2 during the same period last year.
Vanpool riders can save more than $200 a month, paying as little as $28.57 in a 15-passenger vanpool and as much as $50 a month in a six-member vanpool.
Nine vanpools serve 600 employees at Recreational Equipment Inc. in Seattle. The company pays part of the cost of carpools, buses and trains, said Randy Hurlow, REI spokesman and vanpool rider.
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