State agency faces a struggle to meet rules

June 23, 1993|By Peter Jensen | Peter Jensen,Staff Writer

Count the Maryland Department of the Environment among employers failing to meet the agency's soon-to-be-published commuter rules.

The department's East Baltimore headquarters averages 1.22 workers for every car, a performance under par for companies inside the Baltimore Beltway. The culprit: too many of its 800 employees drive alone to work.

The department likely will have plenty of company on the polluters list, however, when the arcane ratio of workers to cars becomes a familiar calculation.

The rules hinge on a basic formula -- the number of employees divided by the number of cars driven to work. If 100 workers drive 50 cars to work, for instance, the result is 2.0.

This formula is called Average Vehicle Occupancy. It starts at 1.0 (1 driver/1 car) and runs as high as 4.0 or more for some city businesses where workers routinely take public transit which, like riding a bicycle or walking, counts as zero vehicles.

Only companies with 100 or more employees at any one work site will be required to meet the regulations. The mandate is to increase vehicle occupancy by 25 percent for employees who arrive Monday through Friday between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m.

The standards differ depending on an employer's location. Drawing on U.S. Census data, the department has divided the region into three districts. Officials calculated that companies outside the Baltimore Beltway currently average 1.19 people per car; inside the Beltway, 1.40; and in downtown Baltimore, 1.96.

The numbers are scheduled to be adjusted prior to three planned public hearings this summer when more up-to-date census figures become available.

State environmental officials said they plan to give preferred parking to workers who use car pools, offer a compressed work week and study telecommuting options to improve the department's occupancy rate. But with only one bus line serving the area and a largely white-collar work force coming from scattered locations, it may not be easy.

"We know we have to set the example," said Mr. Meszler. "We're going to do everything we can."

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