Car Free Weekend kicks off Friday

There are more crowds on the Blue Line after Metro transferred some of the line\'s trains to the Yellow Line. (WTOP File)

WASHINGTON – Car Free Weekend kicks off Friday, Sept. 20 to encourage commuters who drive alone to consider alternatives like mass transit, carpool, vanpool, Capital Bikeshare or teleworking.

A commuter survey from the Transportation Planning Board this week found nearly 3/4 of all people in the suburbs drive alone to work. In Montgomery, Prince George’s and Fairfax counties, the number was 70 percent. Farther out in the region, Loudoun and Prince William counties in Virginia and Charles, Calvert and Frederick counties in Maryland, the number is 75 percent.

Essentially, the number of commuters using mass transit, carpool or vanpool is quite small.

“We hope that people will rethink their options. Really the whole advantage to that is that if it works out for you on that Friday, maybe the following week you might decide to jump on that train or jump in the carpool with my neighbor and I’ll get into work on that day,” says Nicholas Ramfos, Director of Commuter Connections at the Transportation Planning Board.

The options all depend on where commuters live. Metro is an option from Friday through Sunday, but MARC and VRE don’t run on the weekends.

“If Metro makes sense, a bus, or it can be even local transit like Montgomery County RideOn. Our whole goal is trying to get people to figure out what their options are. We have a lot of folks that are switching from driving by themselves into some other type of a mode. That’s good because their changing their travel behavior and in time, maybe they’ll continue to do that into the future,” says Ramfos.

Several jurisdictions are offering prizes for those participating. For example, Frederick County is offering free rides on their Maryland TransIT buses. Also, a random participant will win a free Apple iPad. In D.C., the Department of Transportation will give away $500 in free groceries, an annual Capital Bikeshare membership and more. Commuter Connections will offer other prizes like gift certificates, free MARC and VRE passes and $25 Metro SmarTrip cards.

“Our goal here in the D.C. market is to get 10,000 people to pledge to go car free or car light,” says Ramfos.

The hope is that long-term there will be enough people considering alternative options to make an impact on the traffic congestion on the Capital Beltway, Interstate 66, Interstate 95, Interstate 270 and the Baltimore Washington Parkway.

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