Carpooling is two or more people sharing a ride, often taking turns driving their own vehicles, according to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).
California has about 32 million cars, but, says Roger Snoble of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, “At 1.3 people per car, there would be no traffic congestion on our freeways.”
Carpooling not only helps reduce the stress of fighting traffic every day, but can save thousands of dollars a year on wear and tear, car maintenance and gasoline. Carpoolers not only bypass the gas pump, they can also cruise past traffic in time-saving carpool lanes where commuters save 36 minutes a day on average (according to the MTA).
Finding people to carpool with is as easy now as it has ever been. Web sites and groups are dedicated to setting up carpools, and there is the old fashioned approach of asking co-workers, friends and neighbors.
Sharing your ride with others is not as easy as just getting in the car and hitting the road. With carpooling becoming more popular each year, a set of “carpool etiquette” guidelines can ensure the experience is beneficial and enjoyable for all involved.
Before starting any carpooling arrangement, it’s a good idea to meet and work out the particulars, including:
Who Drives, and When
If you’re driving, make sure you have a vehicle that’s up to the challenge. For example, new vehicles like Ford’s seven-passenger Flex crossover can make the commuting journey more comfortable, thanks to unique features, like second- and third-row leg room to make any passengers comfortable, SIRIUS Travel Link -- a navigation system that can provide real-time traffic information, valuable for any carpool -- and a refrigerator in the second row.
How Often You’ll Carpool
It’s not necessary to carpool every day if some days are more hectic for you than others, due to appointments, kids’ practices and errands. Even setting up a once or twice-a-week carpool is better than driving solo all the time.
Pick-up and Drop-off Arrangements
Determine your route and schedule. Establish a morning pick-up point and designate a place to meet for the trip home. In vehicles with navigation systems, it will be a cinch to get to your pick-up location. SIRIUS Travel Link may even save money on gas by finding the nearest and cheapest gas station.
Decide how your group will split costs before you start carpooling. The biggest cost is typically fuel, but there may also be toll, maintenance and parking costs to consider. In some larger groups, drivers are not charged a fee in exchange for taking care of vehicle maintenance and fueling the van.
Determine a set amount of time the carpool will wait past the designated time for other carpoolers and stick to it. Also have a contingency plan in case the driver is sick, goes on vacation or the car breaks down. You should have at least two drivers in your carpool for backup.
Rules of the Game
Establish policies. Food and drinks, smoking or nonsmoking, radio stations or silence? Find out who’s allergic to perfume and who can’t handle even a few stray pet hairs. All of these details, if sorted out beforehand, make carpooling more enjoyable.
Create a contact sheet which contains contact information for the other members of the carpool in the events of illness, accidents or other unforeseen circumstances causing last- minute changes.
Any Other Questions or Concerns You May Have
Also be sure to address any other questions or concerns you may have before carpooling begins, as the last thing you want is tension in the car.
Carpoolers may even consider establishing a carpool trial period of a week or two. This will allow time to give carpooling a try and determine if you’re suited to carpool together, what adjustments need to be made, or if you will need to find a different carpool partner.