Some of Inland Southern California’s far-flung commuters lead the nation in carpooling, a recent report trumpeted. But the truth is, commuters aren’t exactly clamoring for carpool partners these days.
Despite the stellar local ranking, getting to work by ridesharing continued to fade across the board last year, the latest drop in a quarter-century of declines.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates 24,000 workers shared daily rides from San Bernardino County to Los Angeles County, according to data collected in the 2013 American Community Survey and released in August.
That made it the top workday ridesharing route in the nation. Long distances to work, including routes from the High Desert to the coastal county, are one factor that likely put San Bernardino County in the lead, experts say.
But vanpooling and carpooling practicality is limited. The commuters who get onboard have reliably regular hours and either one work location as the destination, or others so close by that the distance is negligible.
That’s not a fit for a lot of workers.
The survey only gives county-to-county as the destination, but James Appleby, a customer care manager at commuter-van leasing agency vRide’s offices in Riverside, estimates that San Bernardino County workers heading into Los Angeles County have some of the biggest challenges.
“Ridesharing is more cost-effective the longer distance you have to travel; the commutes between San Bernardino County and Los Angeles County are some of the longest commutes in Southern California,” Appleby said.
“It’s just a better deal for the time and money,” said vanpooler Abraham Palafox of Riverside, an aerospace technician for Northrop Grumman in Manhattan Beach, who joins his fellow commuters to start their journey at 4:40 a.m. from a Riverside parking lot.
His shift starts at 6 a.m. and ends at 3:30 p.m., a match for his fellow vanpool riders. He said they are back at their starting point at around 5:30 p.m.
Southern California counties also tied for second place – Orange County to Los Angeles County and Los Angeles County to Orange County, each with 21,000 workers.
But the bigger data for carpooling from the study was not encouraging. Since 1980, the percentage of workers driving alone to their jobs went from 64.4 percent to 76.4 percent in 2013.
The number of those ridesharing – by van or car – fell from 19.7 percent in 1980 to 9.4 percent in 2013, said the survey, which was based on data collected from nearly 143,000 workers.
Ridesharing has not slid backward for lack of trying. Since the first gasoline crisis more than 40 years ago, there have been incentives offered along with public and private programs to match commuters and destinations.
But a reasonable rideshare calls for a van or car full of people who have dependably regular schedules and favorable destinations.
That is largely not the profile for the Southern California workforce these days, said Antonio M. Bento, a professor at USC and director of graduate programs in public policy. Among his specialties are urban economics and transportation policy.
“The current levels are very low, and we don’t seem to be seeing much incentives to alter the trend,” Bento said in a telephone interview. “And the few incentives in place don’t seem to be eliciting a lot of response.”
A federal program that had offered a $245 monthly pretax income write-off to mass transit users and vanpool riders was reduced to $130 for 2015.
“The region has grown and grown and become more diversified. ... Individuals have many different types of jobs and different points of destination that don’t lend themselves to carpooling, ” Bento said.