In Upper Valley, A Call For More Carpooling To Help Ease Traffic Woes

Mar 16, 2015

An example of the traffic along Route 120.
Credit Upper Valley Rideshare

In the Upper Valley, Route 120 is notorious for its traffic issues.

According to state transportation data, nearly 30,000 cars travel each day along the stretch between Lebanon and Hanover.

There’s effort underway to ease that traffic by encouraging more workers to carpool.

Susan Berry is manager of Upper Valley Rideshare.

She joined Morning Edition to talk about the program.

When did you realize this was a problem that needed to be addressed?

Living here, we all know it’s a problem, but really what happened was two years ago the city of Lebanon and the town of Hanover and some of the employers on Route 120 got together to form the Route 120 Workgroup. The purpose of that group was to really look at the traffic, look at the problems that are coming from that, and see if there were some solutions we could come up with. One of the solutions is the invited Upper Valley Rideshare to come to the table and talk about what we could do to actually increase the number of carpools or people in transit.

What caused this traffic problem? Was there just too much buildup along Route 120?

There are a lot of people who work along there. We have a lot of high tech companies, we have the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, we have Dartmouth College at the other end. In between, a lot of smaller companies, too, so there’s a lot of people commuting along that route.

The Upper Valley Rideshare is a partnership between towns and employers. What are you doing specifically to help alleviate the problem?

We are going to employers and we are asking them to partner with us in this effort to reduce the number of cars. For most people, they already have parking problems in their lots, so for them it’s a win-win. We’re asking them to post posters about this, to offer their employees some perks, and just to really be our partners in this whole thing. That means getting things out in their newsletters, asking them to consider carpooling. Even if it’s just one or two days a week, it still makes a difference in the traffic.

Credit Upper Valley Rideshare

I know there’s a pizza company using a rather unique method of promoting the effort.

They are. They’ve been wonderful. They came forward to us right at the beginning and said one of the ways we can help you is to put posters on the tops of our pizza boxes when we deliver them to companies along the Route 120 corridor. We thought that was great. That’s real guerilla marketing.

Does your organization work to help connect folks who want to carpool?

Yes, we do. We have a website that has automatic online matching that is very easy to do. We use a TripSpark program which manages all of the carpool data, helps people make matches, shows them maps of who’s coming from where and going to where. We have an online Upper Valley commuter portal, which has one-click links to every possible type of transportation in the Upper Valley. That could be transit, bike and walk trails, other forms of carpool matching, we have it all on one page to help people out. To support all of this, we offer an emergency ride home benefit which helps people out if they’re really stuck in an emergency.

You started this project in November. Do you have an idea of how it’s going or is too early to tell?

It’s really too early to record significant numbers, but at this point, I did look yesterday and we have about 150 people signed up since Jan. 1.

Who’s most likely to carpool? Is there a certain demographic or age group?

No, we pretty much span all of it. Primarily, the people who carpool are people who want to save money or reduce wear and tear on their car. In many cases now, we’re finding that people just simply don’t want to own two cars or in some cases even one. That’s particularly younger people, but it’s also people who don’t like to drive alone or drive in the dark or bad weather, people who are on rotating shifts.

There’s all kinds of reasons, but I think the real bottom line is for mostly anyone who’s doing this carpooling, if you’re driving alone now and you join a carpool, you’re likely to save somewhere between $3,000 to $6,000 a year. That’s a significant savings.