Commute 20 miles? Save $6,600 a year in Maine

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By Leslie H. Dixon

REGION — Want to save money and lessen your carbon footprint?

Carpool to work.

Commuters can sign up with a statewide program to help them find a car pool, a bus or other means to get to work in an eco-friendly manner.

The Maine Turnpike Authority and Maine Department of Transportation last week unveiled an outreach plan aimed at promoting GO Maine, a free, statewide commuter assistance program that connects drivers and riders looking to form carpool partnerships for the daily drive to work.

“This outreach campaign is a way to hopefully get the word out to people about GO Maine and let them know what the benefits of the program are,” Rebecca Grover, coordinator of the GO Maine statewide program, told the Advertiser Democrat.

GO Maine is Maine’s statewide commuter service providing access to low-cost, healthy, economical and eco-friendly options – including carpooling and van pooling, riding the bus, cycling, walking and teleworking.

More than 4,500 people have already signed up for the program, that is funded by the Maine Turnpike Authority and the Maine Department of Transportation, and officials hope to add thousands more.

Since the program was updated online last fall to make it easier to use, it has been responsible for more than 1,250,000 un-driven miles and saved commuters nearly $700,000, according to information from the program officials. Maine commuters with a 20-mile trip to work spend an average $6,600 annually to get to and from work, officials said.

In western Maine, the lack of public transportation is one of the top issues facing residents, according to a number of surveys conducted by various organizations.

“Anyone from anywhere in the state can sign up to try and find a match,” said Grover.

Although the number of participants is expanding, Grover said the numbers are low in Oxford County – only four people have signed up – one from Hiram, one from Buckfield and two from Hartford. Androscoggin County has 40 people signed up.

“This outreach campaign is a way to hopefully get the word out to people about GO Maine and let them know what the benefits of the program are,” Grover told the Advertiser Democrat.

“I would love to do more outreach to areas in western Maine. Whether that is through the local chambers or through large employers, I am happy to work with any of those groups to let them know about GO Maine.”

Program officials said in their statement about the outreach program, that motorists who take advantage of the program reap additional financial benefits through savings on gasoline plus GO Maine’s reward system.

The incentive program provides reward points that add up to money-saving offers from local and national businesses, stores and restaurants.

“With many of the same traffic reduction and clean air goals in mind, we also have a program to reward people who commute using public transportation or who commute by bicycle or by foot,” Grover said in the statement. “They simply register at GO Maine, record their travel details, and the system tallies their reward points automatically.”

Grover said carpooling commuters can also qualify for GO Maine’s Emergency Ride Home Benefit, a free taxi or rental car ride home in case of illness or a family crisis.

“The MTA and Maine DOT are pleased to take our long-standing GO Maine partnership to an exciting new level,” Sue Moreau, MaineDOT‘s manager of Multimodal Planning and Operations said in the statement. “Building our ride sharing program helps lower transportation costs, ease traffic congestion, benefit the environment — all positive outcomes that contribute significantly to Maine’s quality of life.”

People interested in more information or to register can go to GO Maine’s website, www.gomaine.org or call 800-280-RIDE (7433).

ldixon@sunmediagroup.net

Benefits

Big benefits for business:

  • FREE benefit. Our carpool and vanpool ridematching service can help employees save big money on their daily commute.
  • HELP your employees. We’ll help you start and maintain a money-saving vanpool program your employees will appreciate.
  • REDUCE parking requirements. Carpools and vanpools mean less congestion and fewer company dollars spent on parking.
  • RAISE morale and increase productivity. It’s a fact that employees who carpool or vanpool are more likely to arrive on time, be less stressed and more productive.
  • EXPAND your labor market. A carpool and vanpool program can help attract and retain qualified employees.
  • SAVE money on taxes. Your business can save money on payroll and other taxes when employees vanpool or ride transit.
  • ENHANCE your public image. Help your employees find economical, healthy and eco-friendly ways to work and you reduce traffic and pollution and help preserve your community’s quality of life.

Big benefits for employees:

  • SAVE big $. Sharing the ride in a carpool or vanpool means significant savings on gas, tolls, vehicle wear and tear and more; savings that add up fast!
  • EMERGENCY ride home guarantee. It’s our carpool and vanpool guarantee! Whether it’s for unscheduled overtime, illness, a family crisis et al, your employee gets a free (or reimbursed) ride home in a taxi or rental car.
  • NO OBLIGATION. Our commuter services are free, it’s fast and easy to sign up (online at www.gomaine.org or call toll-free 800.280.RIDE), and there’s no obligation.
  • PRE-TAX SAVINGS. Commuters who vanpool or ride transit are eligible for pre-tax deductions to pay for the service and reduce the cost.