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California County Now Offers Ride Insurance to Car-Free Commuters

5:20 PM EDT on September 14, 2009

Transit and bike commuters in many cities are able to rush home quickly if an emergency strikes -- but for commuters looking to give up their cars in less dense areas, an emergency often means a pricey cab ride. One California county that falls in the latter camp, Santa Cruz, has come up with a unique solution: "ride insurance."

Ecology Action, a local non-profit, has begun offering a program that guarantees taxi transport for non-car-owning commuters who experience a family emergency, a personal crisis, or the premature departure of an office carpool.

The service costs $24 per year and has a cap of four rides annually, or $100. Ecology Action, which also helps local businesses collaborate on shared ride insurance for transit- or bike-riding commuters, sees potential in the new product. From today's San Jose Mercury News:

Coordinatorsexpect the insurance program to resonate with those who fear leavingthe car behind in the event they need to pick up a child unexpectedlyor deal with an unforeseen emergency.

"It's a little more incentive not to drive," Bustos said. ...

"This is a newconcept, absolutely," said Tegan Speiser, a senior transportationplanner for the Regional Transportation Commission, a partner in theRideSurance program.

Speiser said such individual ride insuranceplans could come to play an equally viable role in commuting life asroadside assistance plans, like AAA.

The program is now funded by grant money from the area's air pollution control district, though its goals would make it a good match for green transportation benefits under consideration for inclusion in the Senate climate change bill.

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