by Eileen Weber
Well, not exactly. It seems not too many people carpool. According to the last U.S. Census, most Americans drive solo. In a survey conducted in 2005, 87.7% of commuters use their car to get to work and 77% of them drive alone. On the flip side, only 4.7% of workers use public transportation. In an earlier survey in 2004, Hawaii had the highest carpooling rate at 16.4% while Massachusetts was the lowest at 7.2%. Connecticut was not much better at 7.8%.
What’s so great about carpooling? At the end of the day, you’re still stuck in traffic. But now, you’re stuck in traffic with someone you don’t really know. The most obvious reasons for the commuting alternative are the decrease in traffic congestion and carbon emissions expelled into the air. Another benefit is that some people actually like the personal interaction from meeting new people. It can make the drive seem faster.
For those who choose not to carpool, they have their reasons. Many people often have to work late or their schedule is too unpredictable. But for some, it’s just the inconvenience of relying on someone else’s schedule that makes carpooling, or ridesharing, unappealing.
Inconvenience aside, carpooling is a necessary option in a bad economy. When belts are tightening and the gas prices are high, more people choose to bum a ride.
Unfortunately, when those gas prices drop, as they have recently, workers go back to their habit of driving alone. In a December 2006 article in The Hartford Courant, statistics showed a significant amount of single drivers illegally using the HOV lanes, which defeats their purpose quite nicely.
But Virginia Miller, spokeswoman for the American Public Transportation Association, begs to differ. In a New York Times article dated July 27, 2008, she said that commuters are unlikely to return to their cars even as gas prices fall. She used the summer of 2006 when gasoline prices hit $3 a gallon as an example. She said mass transit use surged during that time. Later on when fuel prices dropped, “people could have easily gone back to their cars, but they didn’t,” she said. “It was as if they had made a new habit.”
That’s what Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner Joseph Marie hopes will happen with commuters in this state. The Greenwich Time reported on February 1st that Marie announced the “Earth Day Commuter Challenge.” The campaign offers rewards to commuters who carpool, bike, walk, or take public transportation to work. The rewards come in the form of gift certificates to restaurants and other local businesses. The campaign is held in conjunction with NuRide, a ridesharing company headquartered in Essex that typically uses an incentive program to get riders to carpool.
Commissioner Marie said that, when it comes to transportation, Connecticut commuters want to get the biggest bang for their buck in this economy. “And with this unique event,” Marie was quoted in the article, “we can help Connecticut commuters save on gas, groceries, and other essentials while reducing traffic and emissions through out the state.”
If you are interested in carpooling, here is a list of links for local and national chains that connect riders and drivers together:
A carpooling system based out of Edwardsville, IL, founded in 1999. It lists rides for daily carpooling, cross country travel, errands and shopping, and rides for planned events.
Founded in 2002 and headquartered in Essex, CT, the company offers incentives for alternative transportation for commuters. Over the years, they have partnered with a number of companies and organizations.
This company encourages any mode of transportation besides driving alone. Funded by the New York State Department of Transportation, they started out in 1989 as E-Z Rider and changed their name in 1996.
Run by Interact Soft, Inc. in Washington state, the company was conceived at the gas pump. When founders Lakshmi Krishnamurthy and Amol Brahme saw rising gas prices and traffic congestion, they decided there should be another alternative.
The company, based in New Haven, CT, helps commuters find carpools and vanpools as well as bus and train schedules to get you where you’re going.
Helps commuters find carpools and vanpools in the U.S. and Canada. Provides a list of carpool profiles so members can match up easily.
The company is owned and operated by Datasphere Corporation, a computer consulting company. The founders, Max Fox and Isabelle Boulard, planned the web site to hone their computer programming skills. Their skills led to a functioning carpool site.