Marysville commuters now have another alternative to racking up miles on their cars.

Marysville commuters now have another alternative to racking up miles on their cars.

As part of its RideSolutions program, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) has added two new van pools to its fleet, one in Marysville and one in Johnstown.

The Marysville-to-Columbus 15-passenger van pool will reduce more than 327,000 miles from the roadways annually, as well as saving more than $32,000 in fuel costs, according to MORPC public information officer Bernice Cage.

"Because of the current high gas prices, van pooling is a convenient, cheap way to travel," said Art Wollum, Marysville van pool driver. "This is a great alternative to commuting to work and a way to get to know other folks in the Marysville area."

Van pool program developer Patricia Olmstead said the program kicked off about two months ago. Unlike a COTA (Central Ohio Transit Authority) bus that travels on a set route, the RideSolutions bus caters to its riders, she said.

"The hours are customized to whatever people need. We try to find people that work and live around the same schedules to share the ride together," she said. "The vans run once a day, and there will be as many vans as there are groups of 12-15 that want to ride.

Olmstead said those interested decide on a central location in Marysville that's convenient for all riders, and then the van will pick them up at the beginning and end of the work day.

"Right now we're also working on a route from Marysville to Ohio State University, and there's been a lot of interest in going downtown (Columbus)," Olmstead said.

She added that a monthly fee is charged to ride on the shuttle, dependent on the destination.

"The van pool has a package with use of the van, insurance, gas and maintenance," she said. "That price is shared by everyone. Usually if someone is driving an SUV to work, one week of transportation costs is equal to one month of costs riding the van."

RideSolutions is a MORPC program that assists commuters in a 12-county region, according to Cage. MORPC is a voluntary association of 47 local governments in central Ohio serving the region through planning, direct service, public policy information and programming, as well as coordinating intergovernmental services in the areas of transportation, land use, energy conservation, the environment and housing.

Olmstead said commuters get the added benefit of avoiding commuter road rage.

"I just wish we had started this sooner, the riders get to work in the morning so rested and relaxed, from not having to drive themselves," she said.

More information on becoming involved with the Marysville van pool can be found by contacting RideSolutions at 888-742-RIDE, or on the Web at www.morpc.org.