Carpooling for Dollars?

Jane West

Rural states like Maine struggle with mass transit issues.  With limited federal funds and even more limited state and local funds, getting the requisite amount of money to fund transit infrastructure can be a herculean task.  Maine has 23,142 miles of roads, compare that to New Hampshire – it has less than half the state roads as Maine yet a slightly smaller population (1,318,301 versus NH’s 1,324,575) and the same transportation funding.  The result is that Maine must squeeze every bit of value it can out of each transportation dollar it receives.  So when it comes time to funding expensive, long term transit projects, it can be a tough sell.  Witness the recent reaction of the transportation committee to the ZOOM bus bill.

So how do Mainers cope with rising gas prices and the need to traverse long distances, often around rural or semi-rural areas, just to get to work?  Well, thousands of available seats already exist in vehicles traveling down the very same roads you commute on, every day, going the same way you are going, at the same time you are traveling.  Yep, it’s all those empty car seats right next to you.  Ok, groan if you must about pre-conceived notions about carpooling, but you might be surprised at how easy it is, thanks to GoMaine’s  interactive commuter ride-matching website.

Not ready for a long term commitment?  No problem, GoMaine just launched a single trip carpool finder so you can catch a ride to Camden for a festival, or save on parking by taking one car downtown for a show.  Not sure about the exact address of where you are heading?  The site uses Google maps so you can at least get close.  The ride-matching system on the GoMaine site has a trip planner, a commuter log that tracks your commuting choices and calculates the pollution and financial savings that go with it.  So, let’s talk about those pollution and money saving benefits.

Take a very typical commute – Lewiston to Portland.  Because housing costs are relatively cheaper in Lewiston but more job opportunities  are in Portland, many Mainers find themselves making the 49 mile haul each way, every day.  First, let’s address the environmental impact of that commute.  If you are going solo five days a week, that commute is releasing 20,012 lbs of carbon into the atmosphere every year.  (By comparison, the average CO2 emissions for a single occupancy vehicle in America is 11,634 lbs per year).   If you had just one person sharing that ride with you, you at least bring your commuter carbon emissions down to the national average.

Next, let’s talk about your wallet.  Assuming you never drove anywhere else but to work and back in your 25mpg car, at today’s gas price of $3.97, you are paying $3,890 a year, in gas alone.  Add to that tolls, wear and tear on your car, and you are paying a lot of money just to get to your job.  But say you have 3 people in your car so you all split that cost.  Each of you pays $972.50 a year instead.  What could you do with an extra $2,000 in your wallet?

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