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Vanpooling offered as solution to stress, pollution

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Neil Semcheski told members of the Upstate Air Quality Advisory Committee that vanpooling could be one solution to several challenges the region will face as it grows.

Air quality in the Upstate is in pretty good shape, and a recent meeting of the committee was arranged by Ten at the Top to keep it that way. Semcheski is senior sales executive for an Enterprise Holdings rideshare program called Commute with Enterprise.

The program makes it possible for people who work together to reduce the cost and impact of driving to work in separate cars.

Ten at the Top Executive Director Dean Hybl said the problems that come with a booming region are growing as fast as the population.

“Mobility is an important issue that a lot of us are working on and its really about moving people and goods across the Upstate region,” Hybl said. “Right now, the most recent statistics that came out from the Census Bureau say that 94% of the people who work in the Upstate use a personal vehicle and 85% drive alone. And 9% carpool.”

Ten at the Top’s recent meeting on air quality explored several of what organizers agree are a multitude of small solutions needed to a make a significant difference in the quality of life in the Upstate — in this case how the region can grow and reduce the impact that growth has on the air we breathe.

Commute with Enterprise has been operating in other parts of the country where traffic congestion has contributed to poor air quality and hot tempers for decades. People sharing vehicles through Commute with Enterprise are taking 65,000 automobiles off the road every day, eliminating 1.4 billion commuter miles annually and reducing carbon emissions by 1.1 billion pounds every year, according to information provided by Enterprise.

Semcheski said for the program to work, a group of employees who live close to one another meet before work at a mutual spot. They leave their personal vehicles there and drive a van or car that each person in the group is authorized to drive. Even though any of them can drive during the commute, one person is responsible for organizing the group and that person takes the vehicle home each day after work and gets an allowance for 200 personal miles monthly. Enterprise takes care of maintenance and insurance. Enterprise also will provide three emergency rides per year for participants who have a sudden change of plans during the workday.

He said the benefit for people in the pool are lower stress levels and a lower personal cost to commute. It costs the average American about 61 cents per mile to commute to work, he said, and Commute with Enterprise analyses of their program show significant individual savings of 60-80%.

For employers, benefits could run into the millions of dollars, as he said it did for a company in Georgia that arranged for about 100 employees to get to work through vanpooling, which meant the company will not have to build a parking garage for all of the 4,000 employees they plan to hire over the next several years. A less direct benefit for employers is improved employees, Semcheski said.

“The commute is becoming a burden for a lot of employees,” he said, adding that a significant number of people site unhappiness with their commute as a reason for leaving a job. When an employee lets someone else do the driving, they arrive at work less stressed. And when they arrive home, they have often had time to take care of some personal business during the ride. In either direction, it’s a better experience, he said.  “It allows your employees to get a part of their time back.”

“When your employees are showing up less stressed, they’re typically more productive so they work a lot better and company productivity goes up,” he said.

Reach Ross Norton at 864-720-1222.

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