A commuter center for BWI Airport-area companies wants more workers to use car pools, buses and trains and hopes to entice them by guaranteeing rides when emergencies arise.
The Greater BWI Commuter Transportation Center Inc. in Hanover will unveil a pilot program today called Guaranteed Ride Home, which promises that ride-sharing employees will never be marooned at work.
Any employee of one of the center's member companies who commutesby car pool, train, bike or bus at least three days a week will be eligible for a free ride home by taxi or rental car in cases of personal/family emergencies or unscheduled overtime.
"It is designed to eliminate excuses for not ride-sharing," said Nancy Van Winter, executive director of the center, a non-profit partnership among businesses, business parks and government that works to solve commuting problems near Baltimore-Washington International Airport. "A common complaint of commuters has been this feeling of being marooned at work."
The center, financed by the county, state and private corporations, hopes to increase commuting by car pool, bus and train, which would reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality, Van Winter said.
Ride-sharing also can save commuters money, the Federal Highway Administration says.
The FHA estimates that over a year, commuters to the airport area would save $2,500 in gas, maintenance and insurance if they drive in a four-member car pool from Annapolis. They'd save $2,500 driving from Baltimore, $1,500 from Columbia; $3,000 from Towsonand $500 from Glen Burnie.
The new program allows employees to decide what constitutes emergencies, which might include becoming ill, a child becoming ill at day care or the home water pipes bursting, Van Winter said.
Once employees register for Guaranteed Ride Home, they are eligible to use it up to 10 times a year -- six times for personal emergencies and four times for unscheduled overtime.
If employees need to work late or leave early, they can call one of the program's numbers and, within minutes, their choice of taxi or rental carwill arrive at work. The employee could make stops along the way, but would not pay fares, rental fee, tips or tax.
The U.S. Federal Transit Administration awarded the center a $60,000 grant, through theBaltimore Regional Council of Governments, which will help pay for staff hours, promoting the program to commuters and publishing a report for the federal agency, Van Winter said.
While running the service, the center plans to undertake the nation's first study of whetherfree emergency rides induce more people to use public transportationor to car pool, Van Winter said.
Of the 65,000 to 75,000 workers in the BWI area, about 13 percent share rides or use mass transit, she said. That percentage has remained steady over the past six years.
Of 450 companies in a triangle-shaped commercial area bounded by Interstate 97 on the east, Howard County on the west and Route 32 on the south, about 30 belong to the commuter center. However, their employees represent about 75 percent of the work force near BWI.
Member companies include Westinghouse Electronic Systems Group, Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., Guest Quarters Suite Hotel, National Security Agency, Anne Arundel County, Maryland Aviation Administration and First National Bank of Maryland.
Commuters who want to register for the program should call 859-1000.