MANATEE--With gas prices on the rise throughout the Tampa Bay area - more than 78 cents higher than this time last year and 17 cents more than last week - the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority (TBARTA) is offering commuters some simple solutions to reduce the pain at the fuel pump.
Through its Commuter Services program, TBARTA offers commuters a number of simple and easy-to-use tools designed to get people where they need to go - while keeping more cash in their pockets, consuming less fuel and causing less wear and tear on their vehicles.
Through its free, online ride-matching program, TBARTA Commuter Services helps potential carpoolers connect with each other to share the ride to and from work. At www.tampabayrideshare.org, commuters create a profile and search for potential carpoolers with similar commutes in their area. The TBARTA database contains thousands of potential carpool partners in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties. Commuters without Internet access can sign up over the phone by calling 800-998-RIDE (7433).
Other Commuter Services programs include Vanpool, which links five or more people to share a ride to work in a passenger van or SUV. Similarly, the Bike Buddy program connects cyclists who want to share the ride. TBARTA can also work with employers to set up an effective "Telework" or telecommuting program that can not only save employees money and businesses parking space, it can also boost employee productivity and morale when properly implemented.
To give commuters a greater sense of security when they don't drive their own car, TBARTA also offers a free Emergency Ride Home program to qualified participants. The program provides up to eight free taxi rides a year from work to home to registered participants who use a commute option other than driving alone at least two days per week in the event of an emergency, illness or unplanned overtime.
Using public transit is another great option for saving on the high cost of gas. The American Public Transportation Association estimates the average rider of public transit in the U.S. can save $9,904 annually - or $825 a month - based on the March 4 average national gas price of $3.47 per gallon. The Florida average is even higher - $3.55 a gallon, according to the American Automobile Association.
When gas reached $4 a gallon in 2008, local transit agencies such as HART and PSTA saw spikes in ridership as consumers struggled to make ends meet. With some experts predicting fuel costs increasing to $5 per gallon by 2012, local transit agencies are gearing up for another surge. The TBARTA Commuter Services webpage offers links and information on public transit options in the Tampa Bay region.
"TBARTA stands ready to assist commuters in the Tampa Bay area in any way we can,'' said Executive Director Bob Clifford. "While we continue to plan for more long-term solutions to the region's transportation problems, we can also provide the kind of 'right now' solutions that people want and need.''
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