TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y. — Most people commuting to work in Tompkins County drive alone, data shows. As a way to reduce emissions and congestion on roads, local officials are letting people know there are local resources if residents want to fill the empty seats of their cars.
Driving alone is energy intensive, Fernando de Aragón, director of the Ithaca-Tompkins County Transportation Council, said. Carpooling can help save car and gas costs for commuters, reduce road congestion and cut down on emissions.
“Any individual driving alone is taking up a fair amount of space on the road and using a tremendous amount of resources. You have four, five seats in your car. If we had more people sitting in those seats, you increase your efficiency dramatically,” de Aragón said.
The inefficiency results in congested roads, de Aragón said, like lines of cars on Route 13 coming in from Cortland.
Eighty percent of local commuters drive alone, and only 11 percent carpool, de Aragón said.
The website www.fingerlakesrideshare.org is a free website for people seeking or offering rides, and it currently has just over 13,000 active users with an origin or destination of Tompkins County.
The website, which uses the Zimride engine to coordinate ride sharing, just exists to connect people, it doesn’t track routes beyond that. Users can connect their social media and chat with each other before signing up or offering rides to learn more about the person they will be commuting with.
Last year, 4,000 new users signed up and posted 13,662 new ride requests. And active users in total last year are estimated to have reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 554,227 pounds, and users are estimated to have saved more than $400,000 in automobile use.
Many of the users are students, often looking for one-time rides going home on break. But, it’s not just for students. Finger Lakes Rideshare has four access portals — Cornell University, Ithaca College, an academic portal that includes Wells College, Tompkins Cortland Community College, Binghamton University and TST-Boces, and a community portal.
Residents with Tompkins County as the origin or destination can sign up for Finger Lakes Rideshare. Users sign up with email, using either a personal email or college email if affiliated with a college. People can request or post rides and drivers often charge somewhere between $2 and $8 per day. They also can list if their car is non-smoking and even what radio station they’re usually tuned to.
Finger Lakes Rideshare is managed and funded by representatives from the schools involved, plus from Way2Go, Tompkins County Department of Social Services, TCAT and the Ithaca-Tompkins County Transportation Council.