Jul. 20--As gas prices continue to rise, employees at local companies are looking for alternative ways to commute to their jobs.
     Eric Townsend, director of public relations at Elon University, has been car pooling with another school employee for about a month. Townsend, who lives in Greensboro, sent out an e-mail to the school's faculty and staff asking if anybody would be interested in sharing a ride.
     "I received about 12 responses," he said, adding that he knows that other employees are doing the same thing informally.
     He said that over half of the school's 1,055 partand full-time employees live in the Burlington/Elon area but that there are some who come from Chapel Hill, Hillsborough, Durham, Greensboro, Winston-Salem and other points in between.
     Some area employers are adopting measures to help their employees cope with rising gas prices.
     Last month, The Associated Press reported that Replacements Ltd. recently gave workers the option of working four, 10-hour days or telecommuting from home one day a week. The company, in eastern Guilford County, is also allowing employees to change their schedules to enable car pooling. The company is testing technology to allow call center workers to take calls remotely.
     Tracey Grayzer, a spokeswoman with Alamance Regional Medical Center, said the hospital has installed bicycle racks at the petition of some of the workers. She said several employees who live in Burlington are riding their bicycles to work to save money.
     For those who may not be able to change their four-wheel vehicles for a bike due to the distance they have to travel, car pooling has become a popular alternative.
     Registered nurses Erica Taylor and Rachel Knowles, who live in Reidsville, have been car pooling for about seven months. "It's been working pretty good," Taylor said. Both nurses work in the critical care unit at the hospital and have the chance to set their own schedule.
     "We try to get in the same days," she said, adding that of the three 12-hour days a week they work at the hospital, at least one time they ride together. She said that though they haven't calculated how much money they are saving by cutting at least one 30-mile commute per week, "we're definitely saving" money.
     Grayzer said the hospital recently created a program called "Share a Ride" that allows employees interested in car pooling to pair up based on location and shift. Employees can map out their locations using an internal network computer system, she said.
     Grayzer said there's been some talk among administrators about providing a pick-up van for those employees who come from the Hillsborough and Chapel Hill area, though nothing has been decided yet.
     She said that the hospital has had a busy couple of weeks and, as a way of thanking their employees, the administration gave $25 gas cards to all the staff members in an effort "to ease the burden a little bit." "We recognize their efforts," she said, adding that they understand that high gas prices are putting a pinch on everyone's budget.
     William S. Chandler, vice president of human resources at Glen Raven Inc., said the company does not have any gas-saving programs going on but he is aware that some employees are "taking some initiatives of their own." Chandler said that most of the 480 employees who work in any of the facilities the company has in the county live close by. A few live in Reidsville, Lexington and Mocksville, he added. He said that the average distance each employee has to commute to get to work and back is 26 miles.
     This means that on average, Glen Raven employees travel a total of 12,480 miles each day, Chandler said, adding that at an average of 14 miles per $4 gallon of gas, that would translate to $3,568 worth of gas each day.


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