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Feel The Hov Featured on Apr 17, 2010
Share a ride to work or school one time this week, and keep a car off the road.
By carpooling just one day, you will reduce your carbon emissions by 26 lbs and save $5 or more.
7798 people have reduced CO2 emissions by 101.37 tons by completing this challenge so far. That's equal to turning off the electricity of 136 homes for about 1 month!
When you think about it, it’s a good thing to have another person in the car with you during your commute. What if you get passed by a Smart Car packed with circus clowns? What if you see Isla Fisher hitchhiking on the side of the road accompanied by a chimp in rhinestone sunglasses? Or what if you know the answer to the morning radio trivia challenge is Poison, even though your friends at school think you know next to nothing about 1980s hair bands? Sometimes it’s just good to have a witness. What you need is a carpool.
The Carbon Connection
Why carpool? Well, it all starts with the environmental and monetary costs of transportation. Close to 30% of the greenhouse gases released in the United States come from transportation. Each gallon of gasoline burned in an average car’s engine blows 19.4 pounds of CO2 out the exhaust and directly into Earth’s atmosphere. With a gas tank size of 15 to 18 gallons, that’s 350 pounds of CO2 you’ve releasing every time your fuel gauge hits Empty. The less gasoline we burn, the better it is for our atmosphere.
Driving also costs money. Nationally, the average daily commute to work or school is 16 miles each way, or 32 miles per day total. At current national average gasoline prices, each day you don’t drive saves you from burning about 1.3 gallons of gas, which is a savings of $3.34 each day, not including tolls, parking, and so on. When gas prices go up again — and they will — that number will quickly double.
Getting It Done
In this decade, car ownership is up and vehicle occupancy is down. People are making more trips in their cars and commuting farther. Carpooling and the number of people who walk instead of driving has dropped by half since 1980. According to a 2005 ABC News poll, only 8 percent of commuters currently car pool.
According the same ABC News study, 20 percent of drivers who commute alone in their cars each day say they’re interested in the idea of carpooling. That’s promising, but how do we convince those people to take the pool plunge? How do we convince you? Here are a few simple suggestions to make this Challenge work:
- We know the usual hesitations about carpooling. Having your own car gives you the freedom to set your own schedule, to arrive and leave when you want, etc. But you should seriously think about how it may be worth it to make ride sharing work for you. People just like you carpool every day. Besides, if you are in a carpool, you’ll have to keep to a schedule and that can be a good thing for your work/life balance.
- Of course, the biggest hurdle people face in starting a carpool is finding the right people with whom to share a ride. Ideally, you would already know someone who lives near you who also works near where you work. If you can’t find an obvious roadmate, there are many online services that can match you with suitable people. For starters, try iCarpool, eRideshare, DivideTheRide, or GoLoco. For more ideas, check out this list of local and national rideshare matching services.
- Exercise a little healthy paranoia, particularly if you’re setting up a carpool with strangers. (Hey, it’s a blind date at 60 miles per hour.) Talk to the person more than once. Meet in person and get a gut feeling for the person. You might want to find a way, perhaps informally, to make sure the other person has a drivers license, adequate car insurance, and a car you’re willing to get into.
- Don’t be afraid to discuss the “rules of the pool” up front. Like any relationship, good communication is crucial to making it work. Let the other person know if you have any specific preferences for the drive. Be willing to compromise on the little things (occasional humming) so that the other person hears you about the bigger things (like habitual lateness).
- Be creative with the arrangements. For instance, you can switch off on driving duties by day, week, or month. Your carpool might even include someone who doesn’t have a car and never drives. He could help pay for gas, tolls, or parking fees for the other drivers.
- Think about ways to make carpooling fun. No, seriously. Have rotating DJ or coffee duties. Have the passenger read a newspaper article-of-the-day. Mix up the route and the routine. Trash talk each other’s sports teams.
- How’s your stress? For most drivers, commuting is not the most relaxing part of the day. But if you have to commute to work or school, being a passenger is a lot less stressful than driving. If you carpool, you aren’t the one driving every day. On the days you aren’t driving, try to relax a little. Read a newspaper, magazine, or book. Study for that History test. Close your eyes and zone out. There’s no carpool requirement to talk for the entire drive. And you know what? You being relaxed will reduce the driver’s stress as well.
- Remember that having extra people in the car entitles you to drive in the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes on highways around major cities. The HOV lanes were created to encourage use of mass transit and car pooling by offering time-savings to bus riders and carpoolers like you.
- Finally, consider using Carbonrally to maximize your carbon impact. See if folks at your office or school have interest in a carpool competition using Carbonrally’s Challenges and team features.
Are you already carpooling? How did you get over your hesitations? Have you found ways to make it easier or even fun? How do you make it work when you are trying to coordinate everyone’s different schedules and needs? Please share your thoughts, stories, and suggestions with fellow Rallyers in the forum section below.
Rules of the Challenge
This Challenge asks you to share a ride for one day. By sharing a ride with at least one other person, you are taking one car off the road for one day’s commute, saving an estimated 26 lbs of CO2. This Challenge is repeatable, and can be accepted once every 48 hours.
Note to our veteran Rallyers: This Challenge partly replaces one of our earliest Challenges, “Leave Your Car At Home.” We’ve decided to “tune up” our commuting Challenges for 2009. Since the launch of Carbonrally, we’ve found that folks lose focus when a Challenge is too general. “Leave Your Car At Home” was very general. So, we’ve taken down the more general Challenge and are making the commuting Challenges more specific. We hope this makes the actions more concrete and specific for you. We also hope this will better focus the conversation and give folks a chance to share insights about specific green ways to travel. Stay tuned for additional commuting Challenges, which will include such carbon savers as telecommuting, biking to work, and so on.
See the Math
Let’s start with the known or estimated numbers:
- If you and another commuter share a ride today, one of you is not driving his car. We are going to give you credit for the carbon savings realized by keeping one car off the road for one day of average commuting.
- According to a 2005 ABC News poll, the average daily commute is 16 miles each way to school or work. That’s 32 commuting miles driven each day. source
- The average American car used in commuting to work or school gets 23.9 miles per gallon of gasoline. source
- Each gallon of gasoline burned by an automobile engine leads to the release of 19.4 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere. source
Now put all that together to get the following equation:
Ride sharing can also save you money. According to the latest AAA estimates for the cost of car ownership 2008, the average cost of owning, operating, maintaining, and driving a car comes out to 71 cents per mile for an average car driving an average of 10,000 miles per year. Much of that cost is from burning gasoline, so driving less means less costly trips to the pump. But you should realize that carpooling saves you money in other ways. Driving less cuts down on tire wear and other car maintenance. All together, getting in the habit of carpooling even one day per week can save you as much as $1000 each year, even with the current lower gas prices.
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