Carpooling 101

According to a recent survey, 81% of carpoolers are satisfied with their commute. But what is carpooling exactly? This mode of travel, once synonymous with driving your child and their classmates to school, has made a comeback across North America.

Carpooling was brought to the forefront of the sustainable travel discussion when the GTHA was chosen to host the Pan Am/Parapan Am Games in the summer of 2015. The Games would attract a large number of visitors to the regions, and in turn, more traffic, making carpooling a more viable option for the average commuter.

High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes were temporarily implemented on a few of the GTHA’s major highways to encourage drivers to carpool, thus reducing the number of cars on the road. The potential to bypass traffic in the HOV lanes caused some commuters to create unorthodox solutions, guided by misconceptions of what carpooling really is. Before forming her first carpool, Sarah Schmied from AECOM Richmond Hill said that her biggest misconception about carpooling was “how difficult it would be to coordinate schedules.” Rather than seeing this as an insurmountable barrier, Sarah chose to be open with her colleague and future carpool partner about her schedule and priorities. “We decided to discuss on a weekly basis which days would work and which days would not,” Sarah explains. Despite the seemingly rigid scheduling, Sarah and her carpool partner remain flexible when dealing with unexpected changes, a tactic Sarah says “reduces the pressure when things come up mid-week.”

Sarah’s foray into carpooling proves that misconceptions can be overcome and channeled into a more positive outlet. Who knows, you might discover a new passion! In honour of Carpool Week 2016, here are the top five carpool misconceptions debunked:

1) Sharing the drive with family or friends does not count as carpooling.

  • Carpooling is simply defined as sharing a personal vehicle with one or more people. The extra person can be a family member, friend, neighbor, colleague; anyone who is willing to share the drive and help reduce the congestion on the road. Although pets are considered family to most, they do not count when using Ontario’s HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lanes.

2) Carpooling is too difficult.

  • It’s never been easier to carpool! With technology at our fingertips, communicating and scheduling for ride-sharing purposes has never been easier. You can start small by carpooling with friends and family, then step outside your comfort zone to find a carpool partner using our free online tool. It is a simple way to connect with potential carpool matches – you can even narrow the search to your workplace network. Some workplaces facilitate carpooling with designated carpool parking spots, ride-matching workshops or Emergency Ride Home services to make it easier for their employees to commute sustainably. Consider facilitating or joining your workplace carpool program today!

3) Carpooling is inefficient.

  • Why go out of my way to pick up a stranger? Remember carpooling can be as simple as dropping your partner off at work or driving with your neighbour to the movies. Carpooling is what you make it and yes, like anything worth doing in life, effort is required to make it work. With an open mind and a minimal amount of scheduling, time can be saved by carpooling. Less cars on the road means less traffic, HOV lanes can be utilized and parents can benefit by arranging school drop offs with other parents. Added bonuses include saving money (by sharing costs) and helping reduce air pollution. It’s easier than you think to get started. Here are some tips to get you on the right track.

4) I’d have to carpool every day.

  • You don’t have to carpool every day or the whole way. Try it once a week or as a multi-modal trip. Picture taking the subway and meeting up with co-workers at a designated stop. Sounds kind of fun right? The degree to which you carpool is up to you; it could be a full-time or part-time commitment, or a spontaneous venture embarked upon on a whim. How you share the drive is up to you! See how these commuters carpool.

5) Carpooling is just for commuting purposes.

  • Let us first and foremost clarify what commuting means in this context. Commuting is defined as traveling some distance between one’s home and place of business on a regular basis. Some drivers believe carpooling is only related to the work day commute, but in reality drivers can carpool on any occasion: to an event or social call, for leisure travel or even for errands and short distances. More reasons why carpooling fits with any occasion!

Get carpooling: