THOUSAND OAKS : Rideshare Fair Draws 1,300 People

The banner said, "Don't Drive Yourself Crazy," so a lunchtime crowd of about 1,300 people didn't, with the aid of sunshine, free food and a live band.

They came to the second annual Community Rideshare Fair on Tuesday in Thousand Oaks to find ways of commuting other than driving alone in a car.

The fair was sponsored by 14 of the Conejo Valley's largest employers. All of them are operating under Rule 210, a clean-air mandate that requires companies with 50 or more employees to cut the number of commuter trips by 25%.

"This is a program of social change," said Pam Couch of the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District, which developed Rule 210.

In keeping with the spirit of the fair, the city of Thousand Oaks donated vans to shuttle employees to the fair and back to work. A Ben & Jerry's ice cream truck, equipped with a solar-powered freezer, gave out free scoops of "rain forest crunch" and other popular flavors.

The GTE Connection band, made up of cable splicers, pay telephone installers, secretaries and other employees from the western U. S., including two from Ventura County, gave renditions of top pop songs.

And TV weatherman George Fischbeck asked the crowd to car pool "for the sake of the children."

Couch said car pooling and van programs are the most popular means of complying with the clean-air rule. But other alternatives were on display, such as a methane-powered Chevy, and a mountain bike with smooth tires for city riding.

GTE employee Tom Williams said he has perhaps the most unusual commuting method. He uses in-line skates to travel the 4.2 miles from his home in Agoura Hills to GTE's campus in Thousand Oaks, with his work clothes folded neatly in a backpack. Williams, a programmer and analyst, showers at work before changing.

Williams said he's all for car pooling. Not to mention emissions controls.

"You really notice it when you skate past a car that's spewing smoke," he said.

Ironically, traffic upset many motorists after the fair ended. An accident shut down northbound lanes of the Ventura Freeway for about four hours Tuesday afternoon, after a big-rig truck blew a tire and overturned.

Couch said she spent an extra 15 minutes crawling through jammed city streets to reach the open segment of the freeway.

"If more people were ride-sharing, we'd have less congestion and impact when one of these situations occurred," she said.

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