Commuter use of Park and Ride lots increases

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(Host) Transportation officials say that despite the recent increase in gasoline prices there hasn’t been a spike in the number of people who carpool to work. Instead, there’s been a slow but steady rise in ride sharing. And that’s put pressure on the state’s existing network of Park and Ride Lots, as VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) Susan Berry thinks it will take a lot more than gas prices nearing $2 a gallon to cause a dramatic increase in the number of people who carpool. Berry is the coordinator for Upper Valley Rideshare.

(Berry) “My sense is that the gas prices are simply not high enough right now, high enough for people to really consider looking for alternatives such as carpooling or mass transit or whatever it takes, a canoe for that matter. I don’t know how high the gas prices have to get to make people do this, but what I have learned over the years is that people really don’t what to know how much their commute costs them.”

(Zind) Berry says despite the apparent willingness of commuters to pay higher gas prices, carpooling continues to increase modestly, but steadily. She says one of the biggest obstacles to getting more people to carpool is a lack of park and ride lots, especially away from the interstate.

(Berry) “Sometimes people will have to drive ten miles to a park and ride lot just to go three more miles in a carpool and that’s crazy. We need more Park and Ride lots, even if they’re small.”

(Zind) Most carpoolers use one of Vermont’s 28 state run Park and Ride lots. The majority of the lots are located along the interstate system and they’re getting a lot of use.

(Wayne Davis) “Most of them are running approximately 80-90% capacity. Some are running at over 100%.”

(Zind) Wayne Davis is with the Agency of Transportation. Davis says there are plans to expand four existing lots and create seven new ones over the next several years. Some of the lots will be located farther away from the interstate, in areas where commuter traffic is increasing. The agency also plans to improve existing dirt lots.

(Davis) “We find that just paving and putting in lights will increase the usage.”

(Zind) Davis says money is a big issue in building more Park and Ride Lots. They’re not inexpensive. A new 100-space lot currently underway in Colchester will cost about $700,000

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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