Sharing the ride shortens the road
January 19, 2011
Up before the sun rises, you climb into your vehicle and drive a long distance alone each day to your job at Natick Soldier Systems Center. When the workday is done, you make a similar journey home.
It doesn't necessarily have to be that way. We could save money, help the environment, reduce traffic congestion, and lessen the wear and tear on our vehicles and ourselves by changing the ways we commute to work.
Just ask Terry Garrahan, who works in the NSSC's Environmental Division. He will tell you that instead of those solitary car trips, you could carpool, use mass transit, and even bike or walk to work if you live close enough. Not only are these alternatives good for you and the world around you, some offer incentives.
"For over 10 years, we've had a program in place where our employees that are taking the train and bus, they get what we call commuter checks," Garrahan said. "I have between 10 and 20 in a given year."
That Army-wide program provides $230 a month for Natick military or civilian workers who take public transportation to and from work.
"This is a tax-free benefit," said Garrahan, adding that 100 to 200 people have taken advantage of the program since it began 10 years ago.
According to Garrahan, NSSC, which is a member of the MetroWest/495 Transportation Management Association, must file an annual report with the state on commuting practices.
"Our survey data indicate between 8 and 10 percent of the workforce are carpooling," Garrahan said. "The state has a real lofty goal of 25 percent for alternate means of transportation. That's very challenging.
"If you can't reach that 25-percent goal, then they want us to provide incentives or do something to try to help us get towards that."
Garrahan pointed out that NSSC provides seven carpool parking spaces in the A Lot.
"They're all used right now," Garrahan said. "I've got a waiting list."
Garrahan said that carpooling at Natick extends back to the gas crisis of the 1970s.
"We had carpools that started up back then," Garrahan said. "People form bonds over the years. They'll be carpooling for 20-some-odd years."
Some of those carpools have entered their second generations, Garrahan said.
About five years ago, Garrahan said, survey results showed that about 100 NSSC employees lived in Natick. Current results show that number has been cut in half.
"I think they're living further away," Garrahan said. "We're spread out in like a hundred different communities."
Later this winter, Garrahan will try to recruit more workers for carpools by setting up a table with sign-up sheets in a high-traffic area on the installation.
"We have tried it before," said Garrahan, "and it has worked."
For more information on commuting alternatives at NSSC, call (508) 233-5993.