Capital News Service

of the Michigan State University School of Journalism

Long commutes, high gas prices spur U.P. car pool lots

Bookmark and Share Story as a Google Doc
By EMILY LAWLER
Capital News Service

LANSING— Look for more car pool lots in the Upper Peninsula on the 2010 state road map.

According to Niles Annelin, car pool lot coordinator for the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), the state added four car pool lots in the Upper Peninsula this summer and fall. And U.P. residents are becoming more interested in the option.

“They have generally a longer travel distance between jobs, so there’s definitely a need for carpool lots in the U.P.,” said Annelin.

The state implemented a car pool program in 1974 in an effort to decrease oil dependence, according to MDOT.

In 2007, state commuters saved $9.4 million in gasoline through the car-pooling system. According to Annelin use of the lots hasn’t changed much in recent years.

“We saw a large increase when gas was $4 a gallon, and it hasn’t dropped off since then,” he said.

This year, lots opened in Watersmeet, Rapid River, Harvey and Ishpeming, but it’s unclear if any will be added in 2010.

MDOT has seven regional offices that track local commuting patterns. From there, the department figures out where lots should go based on lines of travel.

That’s how Jack’s Super Serv, a grocery store in Harvey, became one of the new sites.

“They came to us,” said Mike Schwemin, vice president of Jack’s Foods Inc.

Jack’s Super Serv isn’t paid for hosting the lot but the state maintains its part of the parking lot, which Schwemin estimates at 24 spaces.

“They pay a portion of the snowplowing,” said Schwemin. “For their portion it runs about $1,500 to $2,000 a year.”

MDOT also paid to have its section re-striped and sealed this summer and to mark the area with official signs.

Schwemin said corrections officers who work at a nearby prison use the carpool lot, and he’s seen increased business because of it.

“I know when their shift changes because there are a bunch of gray uniforms in here,” he said.

According to John Cordell, public information officer for the Department of Corrections, that isn’t a systemwide practice. However, Corrections encourages its employees to car pool.

“We do support car pool and MichiVan, which is a van rental service,” Cordell said.

MichiVan — a private company based in Farmington Hills under contract with the state — doesn’t operate in the U.P. The farthest north it reaches is Tuscola and Sanilac counties.

“We’ve tried to get vans started in the U.P. over the years. At times there’s been interest but we’ve never gotten anything started,” said MichiVan office manager Michelle Romano Rockwood.

According to the MDOT, 35 of the state’s 235 car pool lots are in the U.P.

© 2009, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

Advertisements

Filed under: Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

About CNS

CNS reporters cover state government — issues and personalities.



Covering stories of meaning to their member papers, they come in contact with the important newsmakers of the day, from the Supreme Court justices and the governor to members of the Legislature and the people who run the state government departments, to lobbyists and public-interest organizations.



Then they also talk with “real people” — the individual citizens and businesses in communities to get their reactions to what’s happening in Lansing.



In addition to weekly news stories, CNS students write in-depth articles on issues facing state government and their impact on taxpayers.
%d bloggers like this: