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When the scope of the Cecil Ashburn project changed after a failed bid process last Spring to include a complete shutdown rather than a partial one that allowed commuters to traverse the mountain daily, we knew we needed to do something to mitigate various issues that arose from limited transportation options.

We have no transit service and only a handful of roadway facilities out of the Cove in the first place, so to take one completely out of commission puts a lot of strain on the other facilities and the people who use them.  

In particular, Governor’s Drive is the main alternative to Cecil Ashburn, but it is an extremely constrained facility with few shoulders and, on long stretches, nowhere to go if a crash occurs on the road. During peak times in the morning and evening, if traffic is heavy, this can cause a real safety issue for people that need to get to the hospital or anywhere else in a timely manner.

If we maintain current travel patterns and vehicle usage, we could easily add 10-15,000 vehicles from Cecil Ashburn to the 30,000 that currently use Governor’s each day.

But we have the power to avoid turning our roadways into parking lots.

Roadway congestion occurs not because of the number of people that need to travel from one place to another, but because of the number of vehicles that are used at the same time in the same place. If we shift the timing of trips, cancel them, telecommute, or increase the occupancy of vehicles, then we can mitigate many problems.  

If everybody carpooled with one other driver, just once a week, there could be 20% less vehicles on the road. Vanpooling has even greater impact. Sharing rides reduces our dependency on fossil fuels which is a leading contributor to climate change, it saves money, and it increases social capital. It is a great way to get to know colleagues and neighbors better, supporting each other and building resiliency in our community.

In this spirit, GrowCove is hosting a Ridesharing Open House on Monday, December 10th from 5:30-7:30pm at RiverTree Church (652 Taylor Rd). RiverTree has graciously agreed to be a temporary Park n’ Ride meeting place for carpoolers and vanpoolers, along with a number of other establishments in the Cove. 

At the Open House, representatives from the City of Huntsville, Enterprise Vanpool, and Huntsville City Schools will be present to talk to residents about these ridesharing options, and have on-the-spot signups that can translate to successful vanpools and additional afterschool buses if there is sufficient interest.

For Federal Employees in particular, significant incentives exist to utilize transit services, which includes vanpools. For Department of Defense employees, this program is called TIP.  There are a number of vanpools already set up at Redstone Arsenal under TIP. Workers at other large non-Federal employers may be able to utilize pre-tax dollars if their organizations are signed up for a transit benefit program (e.g. CommuterBenefits, WageWorks, Payflex, etc).

It is also relatively easy for an HR department to facilitate the creation of carpools within a company by creating a map of interested parties’ addresses or meeting locations and sharing internally. Various business solutions exist, if needed, as well as CommuteSmart Huntsville. Creating a “green commute” contest, or designating convenient parking spaces for ride-sharers would sweeten the pot.

Local high schoolers can also get in on the action by carpooling or using afterschool activity buses. GrowCove has been working with Huntsville City Schools to offer additional late buses for students participating in clubs or sports at Huntsville High. If there is sufficient interest and the logistics can be worked out, then there will be an additional way for students to get home safely. Randolph High School is also looking to implement a new shuttle service for Cove families, to complement their existing Madison/Decatur service.

We hope that you will attend our RideSharing Open House next Monday, December 10, from 5:30-7:30pm in the lobby of RiverTree Church on Taylor Road, to learn more about local options and participate in sharing rides. Committing to this even once or twice a week will make a big difference in our community, and is one small action you can take towards safer roads, a better commute, and a better future.