Carpooling: Pool Party or Hostage Situation

Depending on what you bring to the “sharing” arrangement, a carpool can be a lot of fun, or anxiety ridden, or something in between.

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 Whether you are an early adopter in the “sharing economy” or simply a married coupled traveling together, this Shareable Magazine interview with Steven Schoeffler has good advice.

Finding People – The Hardest Part For Most of Us

Before you start to hyperventilate, recalling your most traumatic dating experiences, remember that this can be so much easier. Here are some basic rules to follow that will make your transition into carpooling comfortable, familiar, and, hopefully, not at all frightening.

 Let office mates know: It makes things awfully easy if you can find colleagues who live nearby, since you’re all sharing the same destination. Movability helps employees identify potential carpool buddies, but you can do it on your own too. Just hang some flyers in the office common areas, keeping is simple: “Looking for people wanting to carpool to work,” and include your area of town or street, and your email or phone number.

Use technology: There are a lot of apps and websites to help you find people and do much more. Austin-based RideScout is a phone app that shows you all your options, including when your friends are offering rides – Ridescoutapp.com.  There is also an iphone and android app that is new to Austin called CARMA that provides real-time carpool matching and will offer discounts for carpoolers using Central Texas toll roads. Or, try the online MyCommuteSolutions, where you can create a profile, search for rides near you, or register your own commute to attract others into your carpool.

 

Your Concerns are Serious, but They Have Turned Into Barriers

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Fear and safety: There are concerns that keep plenty of people from seriously considering carpools. While these concerns shouldn’t be dismissed, they also shouldn’t stand in the way of saving some gas, money, carbon emissions, and time. To ensure trust and mutual respect, always meet up with potential carpool partners first, before making any plans. Meet in a public place for lunch and get to know them a little bit. You can also check out Facebook or LinkedIn profiles, if they’re public, to get a sense of who you might be spending your rush hours with.

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Can’t Commit? Go casual: The mobile phone apps above are allowing whole generations to create “casual” carpools. The most famous and longest lasting has to be for East Bay commuters traveling into San Francisco. It’s more freewheeling, less secure, and certainly requires some guts, but plenty are doing it.

 

Ground Rules are Necessary

Here are some points to come to agreement upon before the first ride:

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Where will the pick-ups be? Sometimes, the driver will pick up passengers right at their homes. Oftentimes commuters will meet up at a predetermined location, like a “Park and Ride,” or another convenient parking lot.

How often? If this is not an every day carpool, make sure that’s clear upfront. If it’s not a Monday through Friday arrangement, consider sharing a calendar at the beginning of every month or week with the carpool days clearly marked.

 What’s the “late” policy? Sometimes, somebody will be late. How long should the driver wait for them? Five minutes is a reasonable compromise, but any group can set their own terms. Passengers need to know and agree that if they’re not at the meeting point by the end of the grace period, they’re on their own.

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What can you do in the car? Is it alright to drink coffee or stuff down a bagel? How about smoking? Some drivers can’t imagine a 45-minute commute without a cigarette while others can’t imagine being in a smoky car. Get this all sorted out beforehand.

Who controls the radio? It’s probably best to have a radio routine. Lots of carpool groups opt for public radio or other news stations because they can substitute for conversation, which not everyone is keen on having first thing in the morning, and also keep commuters in the loop with traffic and weather updates. Regardless, the driver should set the standard and make sure that all passengers are alright with the radio routine.

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See, that’s not so scary now is it? Need additional help with your carpool or have a question we didn’t cover? Let us know! Email at Lauren@movabilityaustin.org.

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