Communing while commuting
"I think itís a testament to the fact that it
Beth Callister, Wood River Rideshare director
By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer
Under a slate sky in Shoshone on Thursday
morning, three Snake River Plain residents riding in a modern sedan turned
onto Highway 75 and joined the sparse-but-steady stream of headlights
heading north to the Wood River Valley.
Three weeks ago, they each made the same
trek, but did it alone.
Theyíre one of the products of the Wood
River Valleyís budding Wood River Rideshare program, a taxpayer-funded
service designed to bring folks together who work and live in close
proximity to one another.
Now, two cars fewer occupy Ketchumís
limited number of parking spaces each day, and two cars fewer occupy
Highway 75ís overflowing rush-hour traffic lanes.
Stacy Nunez, 36, lives in Filer, near Twin
Falls, and works as a paralegal for the Hawley Troxell Ennis & Hawley
law firm. Sharon Luntsford, 60, lives in Shoshone and works for Edward
Jones Investments. Gary Rasmussen, 48, lives in Gooding and is a graphic
designer for the Idaho Mountain Express.
All three workplaces are in Ketchum inside
a four-block radius. All three commuters said they doubt they ever would
have met one another were it not for Wood River Rideshare.
"We donít have any common ground
anywhere, any of us," Luntsford said.
Except, perhaps, for that ribbon of state
highway connecting their homes to their jobs.
Each morning, the three meet at Luntsfordís
home in Shoshone. They alternate drive times and the vehicle they drive.
The boons of traveling together are too
many to count, the three commuters agreed.
"We gain every advantage," Nunez
said as she navigated through a bluish morning fog in the Timmerman Hills.
"The conversations are nice. It saves miles on our cars, [and] I like
being able to look around [when someone else is driving]."
"Time goes by faster," Rasmussen
Meeting other people, keeping each other
company and keeping each other awake are plusses, too, Luntsford said.
"The only disadvantage," Nunez
lamented jovially, "is Iím a music fan. Itís hard to find
anything everyone likes."
She said sheís also given up listening to
books on tape, listening to taped Spanish lessons and a few other
Rather than music or Spanish lessons, the
car was filled with consistent, friendly conversation and jokesóhardly a
Wood River Rideshare is in its third month,
and 63 Highway 75 commuters have signed up for the program, though signing
up does not require them to participate in ride sharing.
"I am very excited," said Beth
Callister, the programís director, "especially for these three
people. They live the farthest away [from Ketchum], and they were able to
"Itís definitely not for everyone,
and itís not always easy, but the fact that they did it and theyíre
having a good timeóthatís awesome. I think itís a testament to the
fact that it can work."
When a person registers with Wood River
Rideshare, his name, home, work destination and work hours are entered
into a database. A list of people who live and work in the same areas is
then sent to the registered person along with a questionnaire designed to
help iron out wrinkles in the process of getting together and making it
It is then up to the prospective ride
sharers to contact one another.
For the three Snake River Plain residents,
itís a process that worked pretty easily and has resulted in an operable
The traffic during Thursdayís morning and
evening commutes with Nunez, Luntsford and Rasmussen wasnít too bad, nor
has it been bad during the three weeks theyíve been commuting together,
they said. But it hasnít always been, and wonít always be.
Nunez recalled a daunting six-hour drive
from Filer to Ketchum in snowy conditions, and Luntsford said a drive from
Ketchum to Shoshone took her three hours when St. Lukeís was working on
the highway near the new McHanville hospital.
When traffic isnít flowing smoothly,
several fewer cars on the road will help, Callister said.
But thereís something more to ride
sharing than saving money, reducing wear on cars or helping alleviate
traffic on the over-traveled highway, the three agreed.
Itís an opportunity to relax while having
friendly conversations among people who would never otherwise have come to
know each other.