DPS hopes to upgrade and launch a new website that would allow students to easily share rides
By: Trevor Davis
University research associate Sandra Greive and her husband, Jason Kidwell, wanted to move to Salem so Kidwell could be closer to Chemeketa Community College, where his class schedule is spread over irregular hours. The couple, however, decided against the move because of few commuting options for Greive.
“We really couldn’t find anything definite, so we just decided to leave things how they are,” Greive said.
University students have few options if they commute to campus from outside of Eugene or out of reach of Lane Transit District buses. A little-known online car sharing posting service on the Department of Public Safety’s Web site hasn’t been updated for three years. Six users are registered with the service. Students utilize Web sites such as Craigslist and LTD’s Commuter Solutions carpool Web site, or use Valley Vanpools, which operates van service between Eugene and Corvallis, to find a ride.
Students say car sharing programs could help alleviate problems, especially for those who don’t own a vehicle. Other schools across the country, including Willamette University in Salem, have put such programs in place.
The University operates a carpool matching Web site through AlterNetRides.com. Students can create online posts to share car rides.
Mark Evanoff, president of the AlterNetWays Company, launched the Web site in 2000, and companies and schools across the country use the Web site. He said more organizations are using the service now because of the rising cost of gas.
The University launched AlterNetWays on the DPS Web site three years ago, Evanoff said. The University hasn’t updated the site since.
“Quite honestly, it’s sort of sat there on the wayside and hasn’t been given much attention there,” Evanoff said. “We’ve changed things dramatically, and there’s actually a new link we have. We’d love for the UO to install it.”
The Web site has a new look and added features that the University has yet to update. Users can now map their rides, log their carbon emission savings and sign up for van pool programs.
AlterNetRides leaves it up to each organization to market the Web site.
“The whole premise is that each organization has to pick up the ball and run with it,” Evanoff said. He added that he understands DPS is overwhelmed with other duties, and he said the University has expressed interest in upgrading the site.
“In fairness, they aren’t alone,” Evanoff said. “We have a number of organizations who think it’s a good idea, put the link on their Web site, then just forget about it.”
Ken Boegli, parking and transportation manager for DPS, said in an e-mail that he hopes to upgrade and launch the new AlterNetRides Web site soon. He said he also wants to add a link for Commuter Solutions.
The University was in talks with the car sharing service Flexcar, which recently merged with Zipcar. Members pay a fee that covers gas, insurance and maintenance, and they can use the cars any time before returning them to a designated spot.
The talks fell through after Flexcar and Zipcar merged, Boegli said, and DPS hasn’t been involved in any conversations with Zipcar since.
“Their initial proposals would have been cost prohibitive for us,” Boegli said. “By the end of the year, we had a tentative, mutually beneficial agreement, but we never got to see this executed prior to the merger.”
Willamette University has taken advantage of Zipcar. The school introduced the car sharing program because the school wanted to adapt more sustainable practices, said Joe Bowersox, the school’s director of the Center for Sustainable Communities. Much like UO, the school also faces parking problems.
“We had a lot of students who came and brought their cars,” Bowersox said. “The cars just sit there in the parking lot for two weeks at a time and are never used. Parents can now say, ‘You know what? You can just leave the car at home.'”
The cars are primarily used to get from Point A to Point B either around Salem or to another city, Bowersox said. Faculty members often drive to the Eugene Airport or the Portland International Airport to pick up guest lecturers, for example. Users can check out the cars overnight and reserve the cars through Zipcar’s Web site.
“You really just reserve it, unlock it, drive, and that’s it,” Bowersox said.
The program does have some drawbacks, though.
The school had to guarantee Zipcar income because the company was entering a new market, which meant the school had to help subsidize the service, Bowersox said. The entire planning process took about 2 1/2 years.
Boegli said DPS may partner with the car rental company Enterprise, which is releasing a car sharing program later this year.
“It is, as of yet, unknown what the parameters of this program would be, but we will pursue with vigilance any program we feel will bring value to the UO,” Boegli said.
University graduate student Ezra Markowitz of Corvallis commutes to Eugene four or five days each week with another commuter.
“Carpooling has been great and has really helped me cut down both on gas use and the driving that I have to do personally,” he said.
He added that the University should let people know about AlterNetRides.
“It might be nice for the University to send out some sort of all-campus e-mail, maybe at the start of each term or school year letting people know about AlterNetRides,” he said.
Greive, the University research associate, said a car sharing program such as Zipcar could help her and Kidwell because the couple owns one car.
“Then we wouldn’t have to worry about wear and tear on the car,” she said.