June 5-11 is Commuter Challenge week in Canada, a friendly competition that encourages people to use a sustainable mode of transportation to get to and from work.

Niagara Ride Share, a new web-based ride matching service, is taking the lead on promoting the competition in Niagara, and that doesn’t mean it’s just about ride sharing. Commuter Challenge encourages people to walk, bike or use public transit. If these aren’t viable options, then consider carpooling.

Active transportation options, such as walking or cycling, may be ideal and sometimes just not realistic in communities like Niagara where commuter patterns for employed people see the majority of people driving to another area of the region to get to work.

With Niagara having a blend of urban and rural communities with lots of space in between, unless residents own a car, they face challenges in getting where they need to be. That makes ride sharing a great option for many residents. It’s probably no surprise that ride sharing meets six of eight strategic directions of Niagara’s Transportation Strategy.

Carpooling certainly isn’t a new concept. Initially spurred on by a raise in fuel prices in the 1970’s, people opted to share the ride to save money. Then, as the price of gas dropped in the 80’s and 90’s, so did the number of car poolers.

Ride sharing has been experiencing a renaissance since the turn of the millennium and not just because of the cost savings. Today’s carpoolers are conscious of the environmental consequences of driving a car and are looking for strategies that will reduce their carbon footprint and improve air quality.

This renaissance includes web-based ride matching sites that help people connect with others that are going to the same place at the same time.

While single occupancy cars still rule the road, according to Transport Canada, the number of people getting to work as a passenger has increased by 22% or 209,200 people between 2001 and 2006 (Statistics Canada, 2008).

Things are moving in the right direction, and there’s still lots of room for improvement.

Visit www.commuterchallenge.ca and consider signing-up for the Commuter Challenge. To sign up as an individual, select Ontario and then look for Niagara Region All Residents under your city. If carpooling is your preferred option, sign up for Niagara Ride Share – www.niagararideshare.ca

Let’s see what collective impact we can have on reducing the carbon footprint in Niagara the week of June 5!

Rhonda Barron
Health Promoter, Bridges Community Health Centre

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