Australia’s first regional carpool network launches to the NSW Northern Rivers community this week.

Already, partner organisation Southern Cross University has 78 staff and student members registered with the scheme and using it regularly, following a successful pilot program last year.

The local government-funded, web-based scheme aims to create a network of NSW North Coast commuters, from the Tweed Shire to the Clarence Shire, who have similar travel patterns, so they can reduce their travelling costs and share their travel time with compatible people.

The Northern Rivers Carpool Project will be officially launched at 11am on Thursday, February 18, 2010, at the John Crowther Carpark on the corner of Dawson and Woodlark Streets, Lismore.

“Most cars on the roads have only a single occupant,” said Northern Rivers Carpool co-ordinator Gillian Edwards, “so it makes sense to share the journey by filling up the car seats. It’s also a great way to make new friends and even halve weekly fuel bills.

“Priority parking is available for registered carpoolers in many public car parks across the Northern Rivers and this is yet another great reason for people to get involved in this fantastic initiative.”

Southern Cross University sustainability officer, Kirsty Howton, said she was delighted with the take-up of the scheme among staff and students.

“An extensive pilot program was undertaken in 2009 and this was particularly popular with our staff and students as well as with staff from the North Coast Area Health Service. People involved in the pilot have already experienced the benefits of carpooling, with more than 220 members already registered on the website,” she said.

“Transport is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in Australia, so carpooling to work or study is an effective way to reduce our carbon footprint for the benefit of our community in tackling climate change.

“Additionally, with fewer cars on the road, we are reducing the resources required to maintain our roads and our cars – yet another win for the environment.”

Northern Rivers Carpool has been funded by NSW Transport and Infrastructure, six local councils (Lismore, Ballina, Byron, Clarence, Richmond and Tweed), Southern Cross University, North Coast TAFE and North Coast Area Health Service.

For more information on the Northern Rivers Carpool project please contact Lismore City Council, phone: 1300 87 83 87 or go to www.lismore.nsw.gov.au

The Carpool Project is a free and easy web-based service that matches travel details of like commuters. The website is located at www.nrcarpool.org

PICTURE: Southern Cross University staff carpoolers Sophie Kemm (at the wheel) and Kirsty Howton.