Each morning before Greencastle resident Jerry Rud leaves home for his job in downtown Indianapolis, he checks his watch to make sure he is on time.
He grabs the keys to the van parked in front of his house on Anderson Street, starts the engine and heads south on U.S. 231 until he comes to the state highway garage just off I-70 at Cloverdale.
As he drives into the parking lot and pulls into a spot, one by one, car doors begin to swing open and several men and women, dressed in business attire, quickly climb into the van. They greet one another, buckle their seatbelts and all head down the road together.
"We're a pretty diverse group," Rud said of the seven men and women from western Indiana who commute together to the city five days a week.
Rud has been sharing a ride to work for more than 20 years because he hopes it will help reduce pollution. Plus he is saving money on gasoline and cutting down on traffic headed into the Indianapolis metro area each morning.
"It's a nice concept," he said. "I encourage everyone who has a distance to drive to Indianapolis to give it a try."
The Central Indiana Commuter Services (CICS) program provides a means for people from rural areas to meet each other and share transportation to and from their places of employment.
Rud said his group, which includes people from Clay, Vigo and Putnam counties, shares the cost to lease a seven-passenger van as well as the cost for gasoline. Rud also underwent a simple certification process to be able to share in the responsibility of driving the van to work each day. As the driver, he takes the van home every night.
Although CICS has been around for a while, only recently did the Indiana Dept. of Transportation decide to partner with the group by providing a place for commuters to park their cars during the day.
Last week, state and local officials gathered at the Cloverdale INDOT garage to welcome the opening of what they believe is the first commuter Park and Ride lot in central Indiana.
INDOT spokeswoman Megan Kaderavek told the BannerGraphic this week that the state agency is excited about partnering with the existing Park and Ride program and has donated 35 parking spaces around the central part of the state for that purpose.
"We realize that everyone is feeling the pinch of higher gas prices," she said, adding that there are currently seven spaces being offered at Cloverdale.
She said the recent publicity has sparked added interest from the Putnam County area and that INDOT hopes to expand the local van pool to perhaps 12 people.
Rud said he likes the fact that his group has a place to meet and leave their cars where it is lighted and restrooms are available. Prior to parking at the INDOT garage, the group had to leave their cars in the parking lot of a local business.
Rud said he would welcome more people to go to the CICS web site and sign up to be included in a van pool. He said people can also pay a fee to ride for just one day if one of the regular commuters doesn't ride.
"It's a nice service," he said.
To find out more about the Central Indiana Commuter Services program, visit their Web site at