Carpooling – it’s a win-win!
When you think of carpooling, it would be fair to assume that the key motivator is to save money, in addition to reducing your environmental impact of course. In most cases this would probably be true, but Betsy and Erin’s story is a little different.
As Town of Newmarket employees commuting from Barrie, Betsy and Erin sure have a long way to travel!
When Erin was hired in 2011, Betsy offered to pick her up in the mornings and drive the 60 kilometres to work together. “My job requires access to a vehicle because I travel between the town’s municipal sites, so I always drive,” explains Betsy.
“Our car rides typically consist of me sharing stories and talking constantly, while Erin quietly listens. She can probably tell you my entire life story by now!” Betsy says. “We also like listening to CBC radio, and have experienced some interesting encounters on the highway – it’s crazy what some people do while they drive.”
To balance her long days, busy work and family responsibilities, Betsy looks forward to occasional date nights with her husband, which sometimes requires a babysitter. This is where the carpooling arrangement comes in handy! Instead of sharing the cost of gas, Erin simply returns the favour by babysitting Betsy’s children – a win-win situation.
“Having someone to talk to, especially in traffic, is great… and having a reliable babysitter is even better!” says Betsy. “Our carpooling arrangement has worked out perfectly so far. Erin and I are able to accommodate each other in such a way that we both benefit. I look forward to our continued carpool relationship.”
The Art of Carpooling – some tips from the Group of Seven
Five drivers, one passenger, one occasional member, one car on the road, and seven varying work schedules from week to week. Sounds complicated, right? But somehow these seven individuals have managed to successfully maintain a complex carpool over a period of four years. Thankfully there is one common element – their end location, the City of Hamilton municipal offices in downtown Hamilton.
It all began in 2008 with a friendly discussion between three co-workers, and the realization that they all reside in Oakville. This was the start of the Oakville Bunch carpooling group, which was composed of Margaret, Joseph, and an occasional driver, Rob. This was followed by the addition of an occasional passenger and Louisa, who joined the group after a conversation in the lunch room, accounting for five carpooling members. Shortly after, the Oakville Bunch grew to include its sixth and only Toronto-based member, Winston. Now the group was in need of a revised name, and thus the T.O./Oakville Bunch came to be. Kitty was the last member to join the group in 2012, via her account on CarpoolZone.
When coordinating carpools for large groups, obstacles such as differing work schedules, unpredictable weather and accounting for last-minute changes are inevitable, but for this group, the overall benefits have outweighed the challenges. The reduction in travel time; money savings on gas, parking and car maintenance; the use of High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes; and engaging in interesting conversations during their daily travels, are just some of the many benefits this group has come to experience. “Carpooling allots time to get to know your co-workers on a more personal level, which is rare to accomplish during our busy work schedules,” explains Margaret.” The friendships that can result are truly something money can’t buy.”
“Carpooling offers an opportunity for each of us to share stories, strange ideas, funny jokes, and to discuss a range of topics such as the news and recipes!” – Winston
By now you may be wondering what really makes this carpool work. While effective communication and respect for each other is obviously essential, the magic lies in their comprehensive tracking spreadsheet and calendar, created by the group leader, Joseph. This is one organized carpool! An email is distributed in advance to notify each member of the weekly schedule, and a reminder is sent out each Sunday night to prepare for everyone’s favourite day – Monday. “Text messages and emails are exchanged, should any issues with the schedule arise,” says Joseph. The spreadsheet highlights the date and the appointed driver, with each driving a maximum of seven times per month. Let’s put this into perspective: in a calendar year there are approximately 250 business days. With five of the members driving a maximum of seven times per month, this translates to 84 trips all year, therefore saving each driver 166 trips!
Financial contributions to the carpool are based on gas consumption and parking costs, with a daily fee being calculated for non-driving members. Winston explains that, on average, each member is reducing their commuting costs by 20 to 40 per cent.
“It feels great to be part of a carpool knowing we are reducing carbon emissions and traffic congestion, while getting to know our co-workers at the same time.” – Kitty
Different work schedules and occasional participants account for combinations of five, four, three or two members in the car at a time. With organization already being so complex, the group has adopted the term “ditcher” which is attributed to a member of the group that is unable to commit to their scheduled role. This title is given all in good fun… but members of this carpool have to be cautious or they might win the “Ditcher of the Month” award!
“Among all of us, mutual respect has been a key factor in our carpool’s success,” admits Joseph. They get accustomed to each other’s likes and dislikes, and they try to be accommodating. “Though it takes some effort to make this seven-person carpool work – it is an effort well worth it!” says Louisa.
Small changes, big savings
Fatema absolutely loves her job, but the daily commute from her Brampton home to GENIVAR in Markham, which usually takes more than an hour, is often exhausting. She tried using the 407 Express Toll Route (ETR), and while this did shorten her travel time, it also emptied $400 out of her wallet each month.
After a few attempts at forming a carpool over the past couple of years, Fatema finally had success. In March 2012, with the help of Smart Commute’s Carpool Zone online ride-matching service, she was able to find a compatible carpooling partner and they both agree they make a good team. “Having a carpool partner has been a blessing; it has really improved my overall drive into work and has reduced my commuting costs,” she says. “I have realized savings of almost $200 a month between toll charges and gas.”
Up to three times a week, Fatema’s carpool partner, Angelica, starts out at 6:50 a.m. from Georgetown and arrives at her house in Brampton 30 minutes later. From here, they alternate driving duties to their workplace in Markham.
For the most part, this carpool has been problem-free. “In the beginning there were a few challenges in time coordination, but with some minor adjustments and great communication, we have managed to make things work,” explains Fatema. These carpooling partners have developed a lasting friendship through commuting together. Sometimes they even carpool to the gym after work – now that’s some great motivation!
Friends don’t let friends drive alone
A carpool for two is the commute mode of choice for Stephanie and Rose Anne. After many years of friendship, and a few years as co-workers at Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket, they decided to give the environment, and their wallets, a break!
“Our carpool started in November of 2011, and has been going strong ever since,” says Stephanie. “We work the same hours at the same location, so this has definitely simplified the carpooling process – not to mention, we live in the same neighbourhood.”
In addition to saving money on gas and parking (an estimated total of $613 each, so far), being Smart Commuters also entitles Stephanie and Rose Anne guaranteed access to onsite parking. Now that’s a bonus!
Since early mornings are never fun, Stephanie and Rose Anne try to jazz up their commutes by selecting a CD of the week. “While Rose Anne and I are big into Country music, we like to experiment with artists that are suggested to us by friends,” says Stephanie. “We use our time commuting to explore and expand our world of music and we are both very open to trying different music styles.” Additionally, they have learned to be flexible and accommodate each other’s needs, which sometimes include making pit stops to get some errands done.
Aside from being good friends, carpooling for Stephanie and Rose Anne has been a success because they’ve made a commitment to keep the lines of communication open. “Communication is key,” says Rose Anne. Sometimes scheduled work hours change and one of them may need to leave earlier, or stay later. Keeping in touch throughout the day and being open to flexible work hours have allowed them to adapt their carpool schedule, so they both end up safe and sound at home at the end of the day.
Commuting off the gridlock
“Cycling daily has truly transformed my life – the mental and physical health benefits have been enormous. The fact that it also helps the environment, and gets me to and from work is simply the icing on the cake.”
– Mary Ann Neary, Clinical Director, Krembil Neuroscience Program, Critical Care and Hospital Flow, Toronto Western Hospital, University Health Network
When Mary Ann first began to cycle to work, she had no idea it would have such an impact on her life. Just a few short years earlier, Mary Ann was like most residents in Toronto: commuting by car, bearing the costs of driving alone, and frustrated by the traffic around her.
It was this frustration that led Mary Ann to pursue other means of commuting. Although public transit was better than driving, Mary Ann wondered if there was another, more efficient way to travel. How could she reduce her carbon footprint further?
Mary Ann committed to cycling to work two times a week. At first, she found the 12 kilometre commute a challenge. But, with each passing day, Mary Ann felt stronger. She also invested in a new bike and a pannier (messenger bag) to help transport things to and from work.
Before long, Mary Ann started to love her daily commute – and the way she felt. She was more energized at work, physically fit, and in tune with her environment. Now she spends the same amount of time commuting – but none of it caught in traffic. Cycling is the perfect beginning and end to her day.
Mary Ann is now an avid cyclist, riding to work five days a week. She’s also active in helping to advance cycling at University Health Network. A Smart Commute partner since 2009, UHN is committed to increasing bike ridership to 15% by the end of 2010.