How to Carpool
Carpooling makes sense - after all, it can save time, money, and fuel, and it’s good for the environment. But figuring out a sensible arrangement isn't always easy. Sometimes it can feel as though setting up a carpool is more trouble than it's worth. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid common pitfalls, so you can enjoy all the benefits of carpooling without the headaches!
Finding a Carpool
Check with your company, school, or other organization for carpool resources.One of the easiest ways to set up a carpool is to search for other people traveling to the same destination. Many schools, companies, and organizations maintain websites or send out emails to help commuters connect. Oftentimes large corporations and universities even offer incentives for individuals who commute!
- If your university or corporation does not offer commuting services, consider talking to Student Services or Human Resources about setting them up!
Communicate with neighbors to find other commuters.Get the word out to friends and neighbors that you’re looking to set up a carpool. You can use social media, advertise on neighborhood message boards, or even create a flyer to post near your home.
- You want your flyer to catch people's attention, so consider searching for an eye-catching flyer template online or adding your own bright picture of a car!
- The flyer should include basic information like the start and end destinations as well as the time range. You can include your first name, but beware of putting too much personal information on a public flyer.
- Consider creating a new email address specifically for the carpool to avoid advertising your personal contact information.
Meet your fellow commuters in person.Especially if you're commuting with strangers, you want to meet with everyone at a public location before getting in a car together! Meeting in person is a great chance to assess whether or not you trust potential carpoolers. It's also an opportunity to discuss expectations and evaluate if you want to proceed as a carpool group.
- Pay attention to red flags during conversation. If someone complains a lot or seems irresponsible, it's probably not a good match.
- If anyone makes you feel unsafe of uncomfortable, don't risk it. Always trust your gut.
Decide who's driving.Discuss if you will rotate drivers, or if one person will drive regularly. Safety should be your primary concern, so it’s important to make sure that whoever agrees to drive has an active license and car insurance that will cover the group.
Select the vehicles for your carpool.Determine whether your group will use personal vehicles, rent a vehicle from a rental car agency, or take advantage of any government subsidized vanpool programs. You want to consider several factors when making this decision.
- Figure out the most fuel efficient option. If one person in the carpool has a gas guzzler and another person has a hybrid, then it might be in the group's best interest to use the hybrid more often. If you can rent a hybrid, that might save you more money than using an inefficient vehicle that someone already owns.
- Consider comfort. You don't want to be packed into a cramped space everyday or find yourself sweating profusely in a car with a broken AC.
- Make sure any vehicle used has an up to date registration and insurance.
- Think about safety concerns. Will there be enough seat belts, does the car have air bags, and has it received regular maintenance?
Decide if your carpool will permit meals.Some people may be planning to eat their breakfast or sip their coffee during the ride, so find out if everyone is comfortable with that idea. Some people may not want to smell other's food, and many drivers like their cars to remain food-free!
Determine if the carpool will allow smoking.This issue can prove truly divisive, so ensure that everyone's on the same page. Many individuals prefer to avoid secondhand smoke, and some people are so sensitive that they don't want to even sit next to an individual who has been smoking earlier in the day.
Pick a music policy.Maybe one person plans on being the carpool DJ while another likes to enjoy a silent ride. You can have different policies for different days, just make sure everyone agrees.
Set boundaries for conversation.You might want to decide which topics--such as politics or work gossip--are off limits. Similarly, you might want to discuss rules for cell phone conversations.
- These conversations may seem a little awkward to have at the outset, but they are necessary to prevent conflicts down the line.
- You can raise this issue in an easygoing way: "How about we set some guidelines for off-limits conversation just to make sure we keep things light? What do you guys say about using the same principle I use with my family at Thanksgiving--avoid intense conversations about politics, work, and religion"?
Establishing a Route and Routine
Pick a fast route.You want to spend as little time commuting as possible, so use online mapping services like Google Maps or Apple Maps to determine the most efficient route. However, remember to adjust for additional factors, which mapping services might not consider.
- As a commuter, you may be eligible for use of an HOV or designated express lane, which can save more time than your mapping service's prediction may suggest!
- Consider purchasing an EZ pass if you need to cross bridges or pass tolls. These save extra time, and several US states offer discounts for carpools.
Select a departure point.Once you decide on your driver and route, you can pick a strategic starting point. Depending upon traffic conditions and where your carpoolers live, it might make sense to have your driver pick up the other passengers, meet at the home of the driver, or join up at a convenient location that’s along the way.
Formulate your schedule.You want to establish meeting or pick up times to make sure things run smoothly. It's a good idea to plan for contingencies.
- Make sure to leave a little extra time in the schedule to allow for routine traffic delays.
- Establish the amount of time the carpool will wait for any late member.
- Include backup plans in case a driver gets sick and can’t drive.
- Sometimes it's easier to figure out costs if you rotate on a weekly or monthly basis rather than on a daily basis.
- Be on time. Lateness will inconvenience people and make them upset.
- Do a test run for a week or two.
Video: How to Start a Carpool
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