sjRIDESHARE... past, present and future.
We had great fun with our July 4, 2009 Friday Harbor Centennial parade entry! Riders holding temporary signs were posted waiting all along the parade route and our friendly driver picked them up and let them off in neighborly style all the way to the end.
Our committee has welcomed new enthusiastic members from Orcas Island, providing us with needed insight and connections for expanding the program functionally on Orcas. We still could use more volunteer support efforts on all the islands, especially Lopez as we move forward.
sjRIDESHARE representatives have met regularly with S J C Public Works engineers, regarding ongoing site development and the future of the program. We have proposed additional sites, some of which will require some modest engineering. The current lack of funding for site engineering continues to be an obstacle to expansion, and we are exploring grant ideas and other options.We also have initiated conversations with representatives from Washington State Ferries, to work on our goal of getting sjRIDESHARE on our local ferries, allowing riders and drivers to make connections while on the ferry at designated locations. We are also discussing the interface with WSF for community service vans.
A small group of friends, interested in developing more sustainable local transportation solutions, started meeting and brainstorming on San Juan Island, drawing inspiration from communities around the world where doing "more with less" is common practice. Our research began in May 2006, and interesting successful programs such as the Go Geronimo program in Marin County California offered practical models to consider.
The concept of a system of safe roadside stops where riders and car drivers could safely connect was born, and the committee worked to develop a clear proposal for presentation to local government and community groups for consideration in consultation with many supportive officials and interested citizens.
In October 2006 sjRIDESHARE was unanimously approved and a trial phase funded by both the San Juan County Council and the Town of Friday Harbor Council .The program was created and is supported by volunteer organizational efforts, with San Juan County contributing the necessary engineering oversight, and the Town and County paying for their respective sign installations and providing funds for public awareness.
We have been working with the Town and the SJC Public Works Dept. engineers to develop a system of approved sites. The first phase focused on site locations that met critical criteria (site distances, safe pullouts, etc) but did not require any engineering. To date six sjRIDESHARE signs are up in Friday Harbor along “exit” corridors, twelve on San Juan Island at major intersections and destinations, and four on Orcas Island, with more pending on both islands (i.e. await completion of adjoining road work). The program has worked successfully with both the town and county, and has received enthusiastic support.
At the 2006 and 2007 San Juan County Fairs, sjRIDESHARE volunteers manned information booths and spoke with hundreds of county residents. Many people filled out user surveys, marked their most desired locations for sites on a county map, and shared their thoughts and experiences about the system. Vinyl decals for vehicle windshields, buttons, bumper stickers and informational cards were distributed.
sjRIDESHARE representatives have made presentations to the Superintendent of San Juan Island School District, San Juan Island School Board, the Principal of Friday Harbor High School as well as to community service organizations. We also spoke and made presentations at the first San Juan County Transportation Summit in September 2008, and were involved in extensive discussions about local transportation issues and solutions.
The program has received good press. The San Juan Journal (and The Islands Sounder) has published a series of articles (10+) about the program, highlighting experiences and reflections of system users. In May 2008, King 5 News sent a helicopter with a film crew up from Seattle to produce a story, which was aired about our unique island program. We have received responses and inquiries from other communities around the globe.