Monday, December 18th, 2006 at 7:44 pm in Carpooling.
A recent survey by my favorite champion of saving gas and smog turned me on to a powerful, albeit secondary, reason to carpool.
Susan Gluss, who made a big splash in Tuolumne County recently with her frank appraisal of the difficulty of convincing people to carpool, offered up some startling facts about her 511 Rideshare program’s newest recruits.
As I’ve explained, the program matches commuters with people who live nearby and commute to the same area so they can carpool, kinda like a dating service with $3, er, $4 tolls.
Susan and her colleagues, who work for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, have been feverishly drumming up business this fall by giving away gift certificates to the 650 people who signed up and actually start sharing rides to work.
Then they surveyed the new participants, or at least the 354 who had been doing it for a few months, to find out how things were going.
And like the conscientious Bay Area residents they were, 97 percent liked the program. This is normal. We like transit, but only 10 percent of us actually use it to get to work. But in this case, 87 percent liked the program so much that they are continuing to carpool.
“Slowly, one-by-one, we’re converting people to carpooling,” said Gluss, who does media and other outreach for the program. “Financial savings seems to be the real motivator.”
But I was more interested in the psychological factors, a look inside the brain of the carpooler, if you will.
Twelve percent said the thing they liked most about high-occupancy commuting was the reduction in stress: “One carpooler I talked to said there are four eyes on the road,” which could reduce stress, I suppose, as long as those other two eyes don’t belong to my wife.
The thing that really excited me was the survey’s finding that a full 8 percent cited social interaction as what makes carpooling work for them.
Lonely hearts, take note: Carpooling is good for your soul.
“They’d chat about their day, they talk about world affairs or they’d just have girl talk,” Gluss said.
If you were carpooling with Condi Rice, you might be able to squeeze all three of those things. There are actually a lot of Washingtonians who carpool because Interstate 395 up from Virginia required, last time I checked, three occupants per car in its double-lane reversable HOV corridor.
But there’s more. Carpooling has opened up a whole new network for people, as Lori Shurley of Morgan Hill discovered:
“My carpool partner has a daughter a year older than mine. Through carpooling, I found an excellent private kindergarten for my daughter and she has made a new friend. This fall they enrolled in a dance class together.”
I, personally, would really love to carpool, but it’s 7:25 p.m., I’m still in Oakland and everyone I know who lives 67 miles from here is already at or very near home by now. Not to mention, I get in later than most people, or at least that’s what my editor has noticed…
Photo from http://www.right-to-ride.org/ (don’t ask)