The easiest way to add capacity to our roads is through an old-fashioned solution: carpooling.
Anyone who thinks back to their earliest science classes will recall the astounding fact that most matter is empty space, because the atoms that form everything in the universe are themselves mostly empty – comprised of a few particles in their nucleus, some electrons zipping in orbit around that nucleus, and that’s pretty much it. Various forces hold atoms together and to each other, but between those nuclei and electron orbits is nothing but space.
Now, imagine a tractor-trailer accident on I-81 causing a 5-mile traffic jam. Flying over the scene in a helicopter, you’d see a solid ocean of idling cars and trucks, bumper to bumper from exit 143 in Roanoke all the way past Salem filling two travel lanes. In fact, you’d be looking at over 7,000 cars taking up 20% of the interstate between Roanoke and Christiansburg.
And you’d mostly be looking at empty space.
In Roanoke, the vast majority of commuters drive alone. Each driver – the nucleus of the car, if you will – is only taking up 1/4 of total seat capacity at best, even less in the case of large SUVs or minivans. If you look at that same traffic jam in terms of people rather than cars, a backup that might take hours to clear and fills a fifth of the interstate, actually involves so few people they could all fit in the Roanoke Civic Center with plenty of room to spare.
All those empty seats present an enormous opportunity to improve the capacity, efficiency, and lifespan of our roads, and can be realized without investing in any new technologies or transportation systems. In fact, the best, easiest solution is an old-fashioned one: carpooling.
Through RIDE Solutions regional carpool matching database, commuters have access to a free, simple way to find others who share their work hours and basic route. Commuters simply provide a few pieces of information about their commute through the website, and RIDE Solutions does the work of finding likely matches – including using regional park-and-rides and other meeting points to find potential carpool partners through a process called “corridor matching.” Employees control how their data is shared with others, and there’s no requirement to form a carpool with anyone on a given match list. Plus, their Guaranteed Ride Home program ensures that commuters are never stuck without a ride if something unexpected happens.
Though anyone can access the carpool matching system at ridesolutions.org, employers contribute significantly to the success of the program. Employees are more likely to take advantage of carpooling if supported by their bosses and HR departments, and businesses can implement simple incentives such as preferred parking spaces and parking buy out that can be a win-win for your employees and your organization.
The RIDE Solutions Workplace program can help your business implement a carpool program – and more – absolutely free of charge. For information on becoming a Workplace partner, visit our Workplace page at ridesolutions.org/employers.