County coalition could coordinate commutes


In an effort to help local businesses retain employees and to ease the burden of daily commutes for those employees, a group of Marin County agencies is reaching out to workers to better understand their needs. The group, spearheaded by Rhonda Kutter, aide to Supervisor Dennis Rodoni, and KWMR station manager Amanda
Eichstaedt, is asking people who travel to West Marin to work to fill out a simple questionnaire that asks about schedules and gauges interest in alternatives like vanpooling. Ms. Kutter said the data will be used to develop options or possibly to expand the West Marin Stagecoach program. “It’s just stirring the pot and throwing the net out there to see if there’s interest,” she said. “A lot of employers have said they’ve been having trouble getting employees. It’s hard to get people to drive from Petaluma for the same job and wage they can get in Petaluma.”  Ms. Eichstaedt, a former transportation coordinator for the City of Palo Alto, originally approached Ms. Kutter about refining the transportation system in West Marin. “There are a lot of people coming from the northeast, Petaluma and Novato,” she said. “And if you start thinking about the cost of fuel and the wear and tear of owning a car… there’s a possibility to share rides.” Ms. Eichstaedt said she has reached out to local businesses with large staff, such as the Coastal Health Alliance, to measure their interest; so far, the response has been positive. “We have had qualified candidates slip through our fingers, mostly due to distance,” Steve Siegel, the Coastal Health Alliance’s C.E.O., said. Sheryl Cahill, owner of The Station House Café and Side Street Kitchen, said commutes can deter some, but not all, employees. “Some applicants choose not to pursue working with us due to the drive,” she said. “Other long-term employees continue working with us even after moving as far away as Oakland or San Francisco.” The transportation survey can be accessed online at under the “West Marin Commute Alternatives” news item. A Spanish-language version is in the works.