Drivers Trade Car Keys For Bus Passes

SPOKANE — As gas prices increase, drivers are taking to the road less and less and ride sharing programs are seeing more and more participants.

April marked the sixth straight month of a decline in the number of miles Americans drove compared to the same period last year. As a whole, 1.4 billion less miles were logged on American roads in April 2008 compared to April 2007.

Added to the past five months, this marks a decrease of nearly 30 billion miles over the past half year, the biggest such decline since 1979.

While residents are driving less, they still need to get around and for many that means taking the bus. To best accomodate interested commuters, Spokane Transit Authority operates a Park and Ride service from Cheney and Airway Heights to Liberty Lake and Spokane’s South Hill, and several locations in between.

Riders say they like the program because it decreases their car insurance premium, parking is free and, most importantly, they save money on gas.

“I probably already saved $800 in gas,” Greg Wheeler says. Wheeler gave up on driving three months ago – opting instead for his bike and the bus.

STA Officials say ridership is up 15 percent over last year. In fact, the park and ride program has gotten so popular that the Liberty Lake, Five Mile and Fourth and Jefferson parking lots are nearly at capacity and STA is looking for more land in Liberty Lake and Otis Orchards to accommodate the participants.

Meanwhile, beyond the obvious financial incentive, riders cite several different reasons that they park and ride to work.

“It’s relaxing,” Kim McMacken says, “You can read or take a nap.”

Wheeler, who has saved a bundle of money by keeping his car in the garage, is also seeing improvements in his physical health as he bikes the two miles to the STA parking lot.

“I’m getting into shape again,” he says with a smile, “Finally.”

STA operates 12 park and ride locations around the Spokane area.  For more information on this program, including a map, click here