Ben Delman is a GOVERNING contributor.
King County has taken to the Internet to persuade commuters to keep their cars in the garage.
Motorists can tap into a Web-based calculator to figure out exactly how much they would save by taking the bus rather than driving to work each day. The calculator factors in a commuter's distance to work, the price of gas, the car's fuel efficiency, the number of days per month the person commutes and the cost of parking. It then compares this monthly rate with how much a person would pay to use the metro bus system. One variable the calculator does not factor is the upkeep cost of driving a car every day.
The service went online in mid-April when Seattle area gas prices climbed above $2.50. "It was an opportunity to show public transit to be a great option," says King County spokeswoman Linda Thielkey. Since it has been on the county's Web site, the calculator has averaged 1,000 hits per week.
As far as changing commuting patterns, it is too early to tell if the calculator has made a difference--bus usage statistics, which are collected quarterly, are not available yet.
But there are clear signs that higher gas prices have turned people off commuting alone. Thielkey says the Department of Transportation has noticed an increase in requests for the county's ride-matching service for car poolers.