Lowcountry Go promotes multiple options to get people to work
Organizers of Lowcountry Go, an online tool to connect commuters with various sustainable commuting options, are pleased with the reception it’s received thus far. Launched in February, Lowcountry Go helps connect would-be carpoolers with others with similar schedules and routes.
Registering with the site comes with an important benefit for sustainable commuters, whether they arrive by foot, bike, bus, carpool or vanpool, said John Brooker, sustainability communications coordinator at MUSC.
Registered users can be reimbursed up to three times a year for an emergency ride home. If a user gets a call from their child’s school that the child is throwing up, for example, Mom or Dad can grab an Uber or Lyft, rather than waiting around for the next CARTA bus, and then seek reimbursement up to $55 per trip.
“The emergency ride home feature is just a no-brainer. Everyone should do it,” Brooker said.
Even people who are already using alternative transportation options like CARTA can register with Lowcountry Go and be eligible for emergency ride home reimbursement. Vonie Gilreath, mobility manager at the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments, the organization implementing Lowcountry Go, said people are already taking advantage of this benefit. In fact, she recently approved a reimbursement for an MUSC employee, she said.
So far, 52 people from MUSC have registered with the site, Brooker said. While that’s a drop in the bucket when you consider MUSC employs more than 13,000 people, Gilreath said the project is off to a good start. Part of her job is managing expectations as the pilot program gets off the ground.
The council of governments is focused on getting buy-in from major employers first, particularly after a December 2016 survey showed that 90 percent of workers commute alone.
“The hospital systems have been so receptive,” Gilreath said. They all seem to be “at the point of pain” with parking, she added.
Yet that survey also showed that carpooling was the sustainable transportation option that people were least willing to try. It came in dead last behind telecommuting, taking the bus and staggered work schedules. Only 12.5 percent of respondents said they’d be willing to try carpooling or vanpooling, with most people saying they don’t use sustainable transportation because of the convenience of driving themselves.
When Lowcountry Go registrants were contacted to gauge their experiences, one woman said she signed up but then realized her schedule was so varied it wouldn’t work. Another potential user said he signed up, but there were only two other users from Mount Pleasant, and their schedules didn’t coincide.
To help encourage carpool formation, Brooker said MUSC intends to hold some carpool matching fairs in the coming months. This would give people a chance to meet their potential carpool partners face to face, which Brooker said might make people more comfortable with the idea. Lowcountry Go is also launching a phone app in July, after realizing there was a demand for a mobile option.
After the first year, Gilreath hopes to be able to take everything she’s learned from implementing the project in the Tri-County region and disseminate that information to other metro areas throughout South Carolina.
For more information or to register, go to lowcountrygo.com.