- The Washington Times - Monday, April 23, 2007

Washington-area commuters participating in a private program to save fuel and reduce pollution drove 5.22 million miles less over the past year.

The goal of the “Chevron 5,000,000 Mile Rideshare Challenge” was to eliminate 5 million miles by encouraging local motorists to use NuRide Inc., an online network that matches riders with drivers to share rides to work and elsewhere.

The contest, which started March 1, 2006, ended after Washington-area drivers shared a total of 134,793 rides in the past 12 months.

“It’s a unique proof that we don’t have to legislate or regulate to bring about change,” said Rick Steele, chief executive officer of NuRide, a Reston network. “I think it’s very powerful when the business community can work together to create a solution.”

To entice consumers into using the company’s online ride-sharing service, 20 local businesses agreed to offer coupons and other incentives, such as lift tickets at Ski Liberty or tickets to shows at the Arena Stage.

Chevron Corp., the parent company of Chevron and Texaco, was the principal sponsor of the contest.

“In order to meet the world’s growing energy demands, it requires that people from all sides of the energy debate come together and find solutions,” Chevron spokesman Alex Yellen said.

Mr. Yellen, who declined to reveal how much the company provided in financial support, said Chevron “wanted to actively demonstrate the value of energy-efficiency programs.”

According to estimates from NuRide and Chevron, 5,874 riders in the Washington area shared rides, saving 237,000 gallons of gasoline.

“Getting people to change their behavior is very hard,” Mr. Steele said. Many commuters are hesitant to share rides because their schedules vary throughout the week, he said. But because NuRide is “casually used,” people can share rides as often as every day or as little as twice a month, Mr. Steele said, noting that 60 percent of NuRide’s members drove to work alone before using the service.

Some more facts from the yearlong challenge: Employees from more than 720 organizations shared rides an average of 3.4 times a week; the average rider was 36.5 years old and evenly split among men and women. About 70 percent live in Virginia, compared with 22 percent in Maryland, 4 percent in the District and 4 percent from other states.

Even though the challenge is over, Mr. Steele and Mr. Yellen said they have received positive feedback from users and expect them to continue sharing rides. Running through May 31, NuRide is hosting an online “closing ceremony” that invites users to visit the Web site and enter to win prizes.

“We want to keep the momentum up,” Mr. Steele said.

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