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Transit Strike Puts Extra Shine on Golden Pylons


There's been no two-page spread in InStyle as of yet, but the awards bestowed by Southern California Rideshare seem destined for Sotheby status. In an age of award-show inflation ("And now the award for Best Backup Singer of a Theme Song for an Animated Short . . ."), they are relatively rare--this year, only eight were handed out. So in terms of supply-side economics, the Golden Pylon Award may be the most valuable statuette in town.

Named for those orange traffic cones that inevitably signal trouble in paradise, the Pylon was created as a way to reward those in the media who, in some way, provide comfort and aid to the gridlocked, SigAlerted and otherwise traffic-challenged of Southern California. This year's winners were Paul Johnson, Robin Banks, Rhonda Kraemer, Tori Signal, Bill Preciado, Mike Taylor, Cmdr. Chuck Street and Jennifer York.

And although they were all undoubtedly thrilled just to be nominated, these airwave celebs have more than just great on-air personalities and an in-depth knowledge of the Thomas Guide. They have that knack so crucial in show business--great timing.

The awards are traditionally the kickoff of Rideshare Week, which begins Monday. And any other year, these traffic mavens would be just another list on a press release, another attempt to perk up the stodgy image of Rideshare Week, to ditch the schoolmarmish message--Don't drive so much, don't drive alone!--for something a bit more glamorous. Something that would convince Angelenos to at least fill out those forms, to stop rolling their eyes and consider doing the responsible thing--carpooling, or biking or taking the bus.

Not an easy task. Yeah, yeah, we all say as we hurtle past those Rideshare signs, as ubiquitous as posted speed limits, and just as effective.

Until this year. This year, Rideshare and Rideshare Week have received the kind of publicity a PR firm would kill for--the transit strike. Suddenly, the phones are ringing off the hook; suddenly Rideshare is the most popular kid in school.

Last week, there were so many calls to the (800) COMMUTE number that the system imploded. Fortunately, there was another number--(800) 286-RIDE--that, though no longer in use, had not yet been disconnected. It was resurrected, and representatives who normally work with employers were drafted to answer the phones and provide callers with possible carpool and vanpool matches from a database of more than 4,000 names. They worked in shifts, often through the night.

Defcon Five at Rideshare.

Although they don't get real numbers until the end of the month, spokesperson Jill Smolinski says she has conducted her own unofficial survey.

"I ask how many calls they're getting, and they say something scientific like, 'Woohoo. A lot!' "

And while the folks at Rideshare are as eager as everyone else for the strike to end, she says, "this does help us because the media is more likely to get our 800 number out."

All of which adds a new luster to this year's Golden Pylons--2000 may be remembered as the year Rideshare ruled.

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