More Washington area commuters are riding in car and van pools than in Metro trains and buses, according to a report released yesterday by public officials touting the benefits of ride-sharing.

One fourth of the region's 1.75 million daily commuters, or 436,000 people, travel to work in car or van pools, according to the report compiled by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. By comparison, 298,000 commuters, or 17 percent, take Metro, COG said.

"We will need to confront congestion with a full range of transportation measures, measures which reach beyond pouring concrete and laying rail tracks," Vivian Watts, Virginia secretary of transportation and public safety, said at a news conference yesterday. "This must include car pooling, van pooling and increased use of transit," she said.

The proportion of commuters sharing rides remained constant from 1980 to 1985, with about 25 percent sharing rides, said John Williams, a senior transportation engineer who supervised the COG survey, which is conducted every two years.

However, as the population grows faster than the road system, COG's Ride Finders service is helping more commuters form van and car pools or use public transit, said Williams, who manages the program.

Watts joined public officials from Maryland and the District in urging commuters to consider ride-sharing as a way to ease traffic congestion while saving money.

Commuters can save an average of $1,500 a year in travel costs by sharing rides, according to COG estimates.

About 25,100 commuters called Ride Finders in fiscal 1987, which ended June 30. Of those, the program directly assisted 7,614 into traveling by car or van pools or by public transit, a success rate of 30.3 percent, up from 27.9 percent in 1985.

COG extrapolated that the program pulled 2,612 cars off the road, or "more than the traffic on the two inbound lanes of the George Washington Parkway south of Spout Run during the peak rush hour," Watts said.

Prince William County commuters are linking up at the highest rate in the region, the COG report said. The county's ride-sharing program placed 43.9 percent of its applicants, or 2,699 people, into car or van pools or public transit systems.

Prince George's County launched a ride-sharing program in June because "many parts of the county are not well served by transit," said County Executive Parris Glendening. "The best option in terms of time, money and congestion is pooling."

John Touchstone, D.C. director of public works, recommended sharing rides or taking public transit during the District's $50 million, five-year reconstruction of the Southeast/Southwest Freeway.