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Westchester Firms to Work Together on Ride-Sharing Plans

Times Staff Writer

A group of Westchester-area companies, faced with deadlines from the South Coast Air Quality Management District to develop ride-sharing plans for their workers, have announced that they will attempt to coordinate their programs.

Working under the auspices of the Westchester/LAX Chamber of Commerce, the 35 employers will begin their effort with a 1-person staff and a first-year budget of $90,000--half of which will come from a federal grant that chamber officials have been awarded by the Urban Mass Transit Administration.

The firms want a larger pool of employees to participate in computerized ride-sharing, van pools and other programs. Officials also hope that small companies--which employ half the area’s workers and are not required by the AQMD to develop ride-sharing plans--will become involved.

The group, which was officially christened at a press conference last week attended by Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley and Councilwoman Ruth Galanter who represents the area, will be called the Westchester/LAX Transportation Management Assn.

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“There is a great deal to be learned through cross-fertilization,” said chamber President Pat Stitzenberger, who predicted that the companies will save money by working together.

Chamber officials said they are optimistic that more employers will participate in the effort once it gets fully under way after the first of the year. About 650 companies belong to the chamber.

Westchester chamber officials said efforts to form the association began about two years ago. Traffic and air pollution problems in the Westchester area are already bad, and could worsen in coming years as an estimated 21-million square feet of new commercial and industrial buildings are constructed.

Stitzenberger said the AQMD, which is in the process of forcing all large employers in the district to develop ride-sharing plans, indirectly aided chamber efforts to get companies to participate.

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Under what is known as Regulation 15, companies with 100 or more employees at a single site must submit plans to the agency that will increase the average employee ridership to 1.5 passengers per vehicle during the 6 to 10 a.m. commute period. Ridership now is estimated to average 1.13 people per vehicle in the area under the AQMD’s purview--Los Angeles and Orange counties and parts of Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

The regulation is being phased in over a 3-year period, and companies with 500 or more employees are being asked to submit plans within 90 days of notification, an AQMD spokesman said.

A company could be subject to fines of $25,000 a day if it does not file a plan. However, an extension of the deadline can be requested.

Stitzenberger said the chamber initially contacted 75 companies about participating in its program. All are among the companies that will be required to submit a ride-sharing plan to the AQMD, she said.

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Stitzenberger and others involved in the program said small companies must also participate to make the association’s effort as effective as possible. Of the 70,000 people now employed in the Westchester area, half work for companies that do not have to develop ride-sharing programs, they said. The number of people employed in Westchester is expected to more than double once planned developments are completed.

“Our intent is to include everyone, and do it as a community project as opposed to individually,” said Flo Ternes, director of airport services for Continental Airlines and a member of the chamber’s board of directors.

The effort by Westchester employers is not unique. Eight years ago, a number of large companies in El Segundo formed the El Segundo Employers Assn. to tackle employee transportation issues.

Also, employers at the Warner Center in the San Fernando Valley have formed a group for the same purpose, and companies in Universal City and Century City are gearing up to do the same thing, said Michelle Perrault, a spokeswoman for Commuter Computer, a nonprofit company that works with companies to develop ride-sharing programs.

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“The primary reason is to share resources, to sort of share their expertise,” Perrault said. “The more people you have involved, the more likely it will be successful.”


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