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Carpool instead of driving solo

By Recyclebank |
Carpooling offers more than just a shared ride — it reduces carbon dioxide emissions, saves you money, and lightens the traffic load on roads.
Riding with a few colleagues to work, driving a bunch of kids to soccer practice, being a vanpool commuter, or taking turns driving some of the neighborhood kids to school is what ridesharing, commonly known as carpooling, is all about. You'll save time, money, wear and tear on your car, and, oh, the more you do it, the more greenhouse emissions you'll also keep out of the air.

How to carpool instead of driving solo

Carpooling simply means two or more people sharing a ride in a private or company vehicle. While often linked with commuting to work it has many other uses including transporting kids to and from school and activities, traveling to college and back during breaks, attending special events, and as a way for non-drivers to get out and about especially in rural areas.

But why bother? Well, not only will you be cutting your greenhouse gas emissions, you'll also be saving money. Want to know how much? Calculate how much your commute costs with the Commute Cost Calculator.

One-off and short-term carpooling

The simplest way to arrange a carpool is to ask a friend or two if they want to split up the driving to work, to an art class you're taking together, to baseball practice, or whatever place you all need to get to. You may also want to look into the growing number of rideshare providers that match up people.

Slugging, also called casual or instant carpooling, is a unique kind of commuting that people living in the Washington, DC area, the San Francisco Bay area, Pittsburgh, or other cities might want to consider. Here's how it works: A car that's short of the three person high occupancy vehicle (HOV) minimum (in Washington, DC) pulls up to one of the specific pick-up location slug lines. The driver holds up a sign with his or her destination or shouts it out and the first person in the line who wants to go there takes the ride. This informal system moves thousands of commuters each day and has been in practice since 1971 when the first HOV lanes were built in the DC area.

Regular carpooling plans

If you're considering carpooling to work, check with your company, as many businesses already have carpool or vanpool programs in place. Some offer incentives to employees who participate, such as prizes and discounts, reduced-cost or free parking, as well as preferred parking in highly desirable locations. NuRide, which sets up ridesharing for companies in Houston, the New York Tri-State Region, and around Washington, DC, lets members choose from gift cards and discounts to retailers after they've earned a certain number of miles. Many commuters only want to rideshare part-time, say two or three days a week, and programs that offer this kind of flexibility are generally more successful.

If you're setting up your own carpool, here are some carpooling tips you may want to look at so that everyone involved follows the same basic rules and courtesies.

Find it! Rideshare providers and ridematching systems

Carpooling can be as informal or as organized as you like. Word of mouth or simply looking for carpooling ads on your company's notice board often works. But there are a growing number of web-based resources some regionally-based, others nationwide, to help identify commuting partners. Here's a selection:

Carpooling instead of driving solo helps you go green because…

  • By taking cars off the road, greenhouse gas emissions are lessened, congestion is cut, noise is decreased, and motor vehicle accidents are reduced.
  • The land area required for automobile parking is decreased, which reduces water runoff and pollution.
  • Wear and tear on your car is slowed which may extend your vehicle's life and means fewer vehicle replacements.
Americans depend on their cars. The average US household has two mid-sized vehicles, which emit upwards of 20,000 pounds of CO2 every year.[1] This costs the average household approximately 18 percent of its income, which is more than the amount spent on food.[2] Twenty-seven percent of total vehicle miles traveled by Americans are to and from work, which amounts to 734 billion miles each year.[2] Seventy-eight percent of those who commute to work do so solo.[3] In 2005, 1,170.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions came from the use of gasoline in vehicles.[4]

Carpooling offers a way for people to stay in cars (albeit not always their own vehicle), which reduces costs and greenhouse emissions, yet the number of people commuting to work by carpool in the US is declining. In 1990, 13.4 percent or workers carpooled to work compared to 12.2 percent in 2000 and 10.7 percent in 2006.[5][6] In Seattle carpooling grew 7 percent from 1990-2000, but in San Francisco it declined 9 percent in 2000, Chicago saw a 1 percent decline, and New York City's 8 percent carpooling rate in 2000 represented a 6 percent decline from 1990.[7]

When the city of Portland, Oregon, partnered with Climate Trust to create a rideshare service called, the carpooling that resulted offset 30,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide in four years; the equivalent of taking almost 6,000 cars off the road for a year.[8] If two people carpool three days a week they could reduce their individual ozone-producing emissions by 30 percent.[9]

The increasing number of online rideshare matching services may make it easier for people to carpool, which may in turn improve these services. The more people who sign up for a rideshare service the greater their chances of finding the carpool or vanpool that meets their needs. Cost savings also may factor into a decision to carpool or not. Carpooling only one day per week for a year can save the average commuter $455 in total driving costs and 1,200 miles of additional wear on their vehicle.[10]

Fringe benefits of carpooling

Based on 2002 estimates of driving costs not including insurance, registration, and finance charges, a 20-mile round trip cost $1108 to drive annually, $554 if two people carpool and $369 if three people share the ride.[11]

Carpooling can also lower drive times particularly if carpoolers can travel in a high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane. Driving in the carpool lane typically cuts travel time by a third.[12]

Related health issues

The fact that carpoolers traveling in high occupancy vehicle lanes may be able to move faster than the other lanes in congested rush hour conditions may have positive health implications. A study designed to measure motorists' exposure to common motor vehicle pollutants in traffic-heavy Sacramento and Los Angeles found that the amount of air pollutants and toxic compounds may be ten times higher inside vehicles than in the surrounding air. They also discovered that as much as half of the pollutants inside test cars came from the vehicles in front of them. But people who used the carpool lanes were exposed to much lower pollutant levels than those in the other lanes possibly because carpool lanes are less congested and further away from the truck lanes.

External links


  1. Environmental Defense - Cars: Pollution Solutions in Reach
  2. Best Workplaces for Commuters - Basic Information
  3. Best Workplaces for Commuters - Facts and Figures
  4. Energy Information Administration - Emissions of Greenhouse Gases in the United States 2005: Executive Summary - Carbon
  5. US Census Bureau - Journey to Work: 2000
  6. US Census Bureau - Percent of Workers 16 Years and Over Who Traveled to Work by Car, Truck or Van--Carpooled: 2006
  7. Urban Transportation Caucus - Urban Transportation Report Card, August 2007
  8. The Climate Trust - Internet-Based Carpool Matching
  9. Mid-America Regional Council - RideShare Program Overview
  10. US Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration - Simple Steps for Drivers
  11. Commuter Solutions - Driving Alone vs. Carpooling
  12. Westcovina Environmental Management Department - Rideshare Facts
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