As the price of gas approaches $3 a gallon, mid-Missouri’s 26-year-old Rideshare program is receiving as much attention now as it did when it began during the 1980 gas crisis.
Sponsored by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and administered by the department’s Energy Center, the Mid-Missouri Rideshare program maintains a database of individuals interested in carpooling. Each new person entering the system is sent other interested carpoolers’ information, including work schedules and work locations. The prospective carpooler is then responsible for contacting others to arrange Rideshare details.
“The biggest concern most have before starting their carpool is the perceived inconvenience of having to coordinate schedules with other carpoolers,” said Larry Archer, DNR’s public information coordinator. “What they find is that the inconvenience is much less and the benefits are more than they expected. People are frequently surprised by how much they enjoy the company of fellow carpoolers and how much more relaxing it is when you do not have to do all the driving.”
DNR Director Doyle Childers held news conferences in August at Missouri Department of Transportation commuter lots, including one south of Columbia that is popular with commuters who work in Jefferson City.
Prospective carpoolers can register online or call the new, easier-to-remember Rideshare number, (573) 522-RIDE, to initiate the process. With 391 participants and 102 commuter parking lots across Missouri, the Rideshare program is widespread and readily available to commuters, who can save money on gas and vehicle maintenance.
“Financially, [carpooling] helps me on the cost of gas, cost of tires and other maintenance on my vehicle,” said Department of Natural Resources engineer and long-time carpooler Frank Cunningham. “The drive between Columbia and Jefferson City being approximately 60 miles round trip, it makes a difference.”
Cunningham has participated in the Rideshare program for 10 years, on and off, and has been with his current carpool group for a year and a half.
The department’s Web site includes carpooling tips and a carpool calculator, which can help prospective carpoolers determine savings based on the current price of gas, the length of the commute, the vehicle’s gas mileage efficiency and the number of carpoolers. With gas at $3 per gallon, the average Columbia-Jefferson City commuter can save more than $1,000 annually by splitting the drive with just one other person; carpooling with three others can save participants upwards of $1,500 a year.
“Before I started carpooling, I was filling up the tank about two and a half times a week; now I see a noticeable difference in how infrequently I fill up,” said Cunningham.
Carpooling also provides a pleasant diversion from the grind of the daily commute, participants said.
“There is definitely a social aspect to the Rideshare program,” Cunningham said. “The group I carpool with comes from different departments. Without the carpool, I probably would not have met them. Last weekend I attended a birthday party for another carpooler’s daughter.”
DNR environmental specialist Lindsey Tempinson started carpooling with one person a year and a half ago, and her group has since increased to four participants.
“I truly enjoy the people I carpool with,” said Tempinson.
Archer said promoting carpooling through Mid-Missouri Rideshare contributes to improved air quality as well as energy conservation.
“Even if prices were to fall by half, most participants would still consider the savings to be significant, and the other benefits—environmental and psychological—would still remain the same.”
For more information, visit the Missouri Department of Natural Resources Rideshare Web site at www.dnr.mo.gov/energy/transportation/ride.htm.