Columbus commuters look to busses, bikes and vans to avoid gas prices

Thousands of commuters – driving alone in their cars – pour into Columbus every weekday for work.

Even with the recent spike in gasoline prices, not many, it seems are making sure they’re getting the best mileage. Several auto repair shops report no increased demand for tune-ups. But there are some Ohioans who are combating the high price of gas.

It’s 7:45 AM at a bus stop in Dublin. Commuter Ilene Bunner is angry about high gas prices, but she’s happy that she can take the bus to her job downtown

“I find it easier because of the gas and because of the parking downtown,” Bunner said.

Another commuter prefers to ride his bike to and from work he takes the bikepath that parallels 315.

“I ride to work at least once or twice a week and I have increased it since the gas prices have gone up”, said a bike rider.

The bike rider, who didn’t want to give his name, says he rides about 24 miles a day. Ilene Bunner’s commute totals about 34 miles daily. But people who live much farther away are finding a new way to save gas.

Those people are vanpooling, according to Stephanie Boscoe of the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission in Columbus.

“They’re coming from Lancaster, Chillicothe, Mount Vernon. We have commuters that normally would have driven 180 miles in their personal vehicle every single day,” she said.

A vanpool is a variation on the old carpool idea. Riders get together and split expenses for their daily commute… which often results in sizeable saving

“$2.60 divided by 14 is a lot less than 2.60 divided by 1. Essentially their splitting the cost with 14 other people. They’re chipping in for gas and they’re putting the miles on the van and not on their own vehicle. They’re not gassing up their own vehicle every morning,” Bosco said.

A private company – VPSI- supplies the van, the maintenance and the insurance. The planning commission recruits riders and develops routes for about 27 of the 40 Columbus vanpools.

The most persuasive statistic is the dramatic drop in the cost of the monthly commute on average about 300 dollars, Boscoe says. For example, two vanpools from Newark were started after Licking County Transportation halted bus service to Columbus.

“My Newark van pools that come to downtown pay $128 dollars a month. Which is only eight dollars more a month when the bus was on the road,” Bosco said.

But even with the dramatically lower cost, the number of people who using vanpools is miniscule. Of the estimated 28-thousand Licking County commuters, for example, only 30 are riding the Newark vans. And even though there are simple ways to keep cars fuel efficient

Auto mechanics offer the following tips:

Go easy on the gas pedal, that’ll be easy on the gas mileage

Drive the speed limit, keep your tires properly inflated, keep your car properly tuned and maintained

Make sure you follow the manufacturers scheduled replacement of spark plugs and air filters

The owner of a local car repair shop, David Waits, says he has yet to see drivers rushing in to get tune-ups, “People are going to get serious about the price of gas when it reaches over $3 a gallon.”

In the meantime, the commuting bike rider says he will continue using his healthy alternative.

“It’s not bad it’s good exercise saves money and it only takes about 15 more minutes than when I drive.”

While Ilene Bunner enjoys the peace of her daily commute, ” It’s just calmer to ride the bus and I can just wear my sunglasses and close my eyes.”

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