Governor Patrick Highlights Efforts to Help Consumers Offset Rising Gasoline Prices
New Webpage offers tips and resources for commuters, Transportation and Environmental Officials Find Ways to Ease Traffic and Save Taxpayer Money
The Governor's Office has assembled an informational webpage at www.mass.gov/gastips, including a list of resources and tips to help residents increase their car's gas mileage, find the cheapest gas prices in their community, and explore alternative means of transportation.
"We hope this list will be useful to people feeling the pinch of higher gas prices throughout the Commonwealth, but these are only short-term solutions," said Governor Patrick. "We need to increase energy efficiency and stimulate the development of clean energy sources, and I will continue to work closely with the Legislature on initiatives including the Energy Bill, advanced biofuels legislation, green building practices, and growing the clean energy industry."
The Governor also highlighted the MassRIDES program, which helps commuters and employers identify the best commuting choices as fuel costs continue to rise. Maintained by the Executive Office of Transportation (EOT), MassRIDES is the comprehensive transportation resource for people traveling in and around the Commonwealth.
"Nearly 300 major employers throughout the Commonwealth are already working with MassRIDES to enhance their employees' transportation options," says Transportation Secretary Bernard Cohen. "During this time of elevated gas prices, employers are finding these services offer an even more substantial benefit to their employees."
MassRIDES offers personalized travel planning and bilingual customer service for English and Spanish-speaking callers, helping travelers find alternate transportation options during this time of high gas prices. Travelers can contact the state's toll free telephone number 1.888.4.COMMUTE and talk to a program representative about commuting options, or visit www.commute.com to register for ride matching services to find others who share their commute in the 13,000-member system.
"Helping people move throughout the state means providing more people with a broad range of transportation choices," says MassRIDES Project Manager Kay Carson. "With the high price of gas, the MassRIDES program can help commuters take charge of their commute by finding a new travel routine to start saving money now."
MassRIDES also offers free, customized assistance to businesses seeking to develop and implement strategies to enhance their employees' commutes. Businesses can benefit by saving money through reduced absenteeism, increased productivity, and improved employee retention. Employees can benefit by saving both time and money on their commute and eliminating some of the stress from driving solo.
Reducing Congestion, Helping Commuters
Massachusetts motorists drive 40 million miles each weekday on the state's highway system, and traffic congestion adds 62 million gallons of wasted fuel every year. With gas prices reaching $4 per gallon, that takes tens of millions of dollars out of the pockets of Commonwealth citizens each year.
A study by the Texas Transportation Institute says the combined cost of extra fuel and lost productivity carries a hefty and rising price: $900 per year for each rush-hour driver in Boston. EOT and MassHighway are taking significant steps to reduce congestion and save commuters at the gas pump:
· Call 511 - Last year, MassHighway launched the 511 traveler information system, a 24-hour, free phone line providing commuters up-to-the-minute traffic conditions and a "Highway Hotline" to report litter, debris and problems that require an immediate response from MassHighway. The 511 line now receives 575,000 calls per month. MassHighway plans additional improvements including statewide coverage, automated voice technology, a companion Web site, geographic information systems maps, and camera images.
· Clearing Roadways - Roadway crashes are a significant cause of congestion and safety problems. MassHighway is working closely with other agencies, including the Massachusetts State Police and emergency responders, to improve the coordination among our agencies following crash-related road closures. Part of this effort includes developing new techniques to re-open the roads more quickly following major incidents. The Quick Clearance Policy will reduce congestion and improve safety.
· Cares Vans - MassHighway's Motorist Assistance (Cares Van) Program covers 333 miles of limited access roadway through roving service patrols that provide help response to disabled vehicles, rapid removal of abandoned vehicles in hazardous locations and direct radio communications with State Police and Traffic Operations Center (TOC). MassHighway plans to expand the program from 22 to 25 routes and expand the hours of operation from 7 to 8 hours per day.
· HOV Lanes - I-93 south of Boston adds a 5th lane for traffic during the morning and evening rush hour to help ease congestion. I-93 north of Boston includes an additional carpool lane inbound in the morning. Both HOV lanes target cars with two or more occupants.
Innovative Approaches to Reduce State Costs
The Commonwealth has been working to reduce both the costs to the state, and taxpayers, as well as offset the environmental impacts of the state vehicle fleet in a number of ways:
· Expanded purchase and use of vehicles that can run on alternative fuels such as electricity (hybrids) and biodiesel
· Better maintenance of vehicles in the fleet
· Encouraging more car pooling by employees, and using more video and teleconferencing (as opposed to driving to meetings)
· Encouraging employees to consider walking or taking public transportation to outside appointments/meetings, rather than driving
Since the late 1990s, the Commonwealth has purchased hundreds of hybrids, flex-fuel, and CNG vehicles. More than 700 of the state's 3,000 light duty vehicles (about 20 percent of the state light duty fleet) are alternative fuel vehicles or hybrids. The recent increase in gasoline prices has prompted the state to take an even harder look at fuel and vehicle choices - striving to make even greater improvements in fuel efficiency and relying less on fossil fuels.
"With the price of gasoline and other fuels at record highs, Massachusetts residents need to take control of their energy usage," said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles. "The state is committed to leading by example, through its own efforts to reduce costs and environmental impacts from vehicle use, and by offering the best tools at our disposal to help consumers reduce theirs."
MassHighway joins other state agencies working with the Office of Vehicle Management (OVM) to reduce fuel consumption by increasing the number of hybrid vehicles in the department fleet. OMV reports an increase from 33 Hybrid vehicles in 2005 to 247 today. MassHighway has also started using bio-diesel in Heavy Duty equipment to further reduce consumption.
A number of agencies, particularly MassHighway and the Department of Conservation and Recreation, are using significant amounts of biodiesel in their heavier duty vehicles. A benefit of biodiesel is that it does not require changing vehicles - biodiesel can be used a substitute for regular diesel in convention diesel vehicles and reduces reliance on petroleum products.
In an effort to demonstrate the viability of new cutting edge fuel efficient technology, the Patrick Administration is poised to begin a pilot project that will retrofit at least ten hybrid vehicles in the state fleet with plug-in technology. These plug-in hybrids will achieve up to 100 miles per gallon through use of electricity stored in the vehicle's second battery pack and charged by plugging into an electrical outlet when the car is not in use. This technology will also be available to all agencies and municipalities through an official state contract mechanism.