Between the hardwood floors and views of the sunset over a newly lit Verrazano Bridge each night, my 22-year-old self didn’t think life was going to get better. In actuality, it was going to get a lot worse over the course of the next three years. But one thing did get better. My commute.
After graduating college I worked one last summer at the Bennington College July Program before starting my job search. Each day was spent taking the LIRR to the city and interviewing at countless schools. The trains were time to tuck into a book or review what I thought they might ask. Getting a job as a teacher straight out of college is not easy. I knew I would find something, but until I did I couldn’t afford NYC rent. Not even in the outer boroughs. Once I did find something, it wasn’t going to be ready for a while so I spent the first days of my career commuting from Nassau County to Brownsville. It was hell.
The Jackie Robinson was a twisted slither of misery and the miserable. I punctuated singing along to The Police and The Smiths (on tape, this was the 90’s) with fist shaking and yelling at other drivers. This was what aged people. This was why I’d always been told being “grown up” was overrated. I got it now. I’d never commuted in college, I went to a tiny school. I lived on campus. And we walked everywhere. This was a new experience. And I did not like it.
Once I moved into my apartment I started driving to work. It was an easy 20 minute drive. But eventually having a car in Brooklyn made no sense. The bus took an extra 10 minutes, but it woke me up to the joy of ditching the drive. This was before smart phones. I listened to music, got grading done, daydreamed. Spent hours of my life fascinated, observing the Elvis Impersonator I’d catch up with once I transferred at Kings Highway. I was in love with public transportation. Thrilled at not having to drive. And I’ve always loved driving. But commuting was not the driving of my teen years. I recognized the freedom and peace public transport gave me. I never realized the break it gave our stressed ecosystem.
Cars Are Killing The Ecosystem
On average, a car releases in its weight in CO2 emissions annually. Ouch. That’s a significant footprint, especially here in the US where we like to drive big cars. If you’ve decided to go greener in your life, rethinking your commute is a great way to start.
6 Reasons To Try A Carpool
- Air pollution is killing us. The World Health Organization estimates that one million people die each year from illness related to air pollution. A huge cause of air pollution? Traffic.
- Car commuting is expensive. Gas, maintenance. Tolls. It all adds up.
- Connection. While some carpools have strict rules (see section on Alternative Carpools below) about talking or listening to music, putting one together with like-minded colleagues or professionals in the same area of your city can lead to collaboration, confidants and fun.
- Productivity. If you are in one of those functional carpools where no one talks, you’ll gain a significant amount of time on the ride to and from work in which you can check email, work from your tablet and reclaim some of your evening.
- It’s good for you. Driving is stressful. Carpooling reduces stress by limiting the number of days you’re responsible for driving. Find good drivers in your carpool and tune out, or into something more interesting.
- Reap the rewards. Whether it’s a tax break or other financial incentive or the right to cruise in the HOV lane, cities recognize the benefit of carpooling and reward it.
How to Carpool
Believe it or not, carpooling is easier to set up than you think. Many people opt to commute on their own because they don’t think there is interest but, in most cases, people would prefer to carpool. If you want to get involved, here are some suggestions.
- If it’s allowed, send a company-wide email offering to set up a carpool. Include your personal email address and put at the beginning and end of the email a note asking that people NOT reply all. Pro tip: if people can’t follow that direction, you probably don’t want them in your carpool.
- Think outside your company. If you work in a place that has many offices, consider posting to a community Facebook page or another message board. Community bulletin boards, the physical kind, are also a great idea for gaining interest.
- Have a plan. Don’t just say, “Who wants to carpool?” This will never get off the ground. To start, decide where you would want to meet and at what time. How many people can fit. Are you sharing driving responsibilities or paying one person to drive (keep in mind that the driver has more expenses than just gas!). Create your ideal carpool and post the details rather than hashing them out. If you work in a large city or for a big company offer to help other people set up satellite carpools. Each carpool should have a group text where people can contact to say they are not coming in the morning or evening. Read on for more about that…
- Have clear expectations. No smoking. No eating. Only water. No conversation. No tuna salad sandwiches packed in lunches. Whatever: just be clear when setting up your carpool what you want. I recommend a clear pick up/departure time. And never wait. Otherwise your pool will quickly dissolve into a messy, late, free-for-all.
San Francisco employes flexible carpooling.
Live elsewhere? Check out this site full of local options for carpooling.