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carpool for 10/12 automotion

Pooling resources

By Teresa Odle

CTW Features

A hectic pace means the school year is in full swing. Traffic is as busy in the bathroom and kitchen each morning as it is on the roads. While parents still work to solve the problem of overcrowded bathrooms and getting everyone out the door on time, many have turned to community programs for solutions to the congestion they encounter on the roadways.

At least 10 percent of Americans now participate in a carpool, according to a recent Census Bureau poll. A carpool with four passengers is more energy efficient than a bus and is about equal to a commuter rail or light rail service, reports the Twin Cities Green Guide. In fact, the out-of-pocket savings realized from carpooling can be substantial. A daily (20 days per month) 30-mile round trip commute in a car that averages 20 miles per gallon at about $2.75 per gallon for gas costs the driver about $343 per month or $4,122 per year. The calculation, from the New Hampshire Rideshare Web site, includes an average cost per mile for repairs, financing, insurance and depreciation for a vehicle but assumes free parking. Split four ways that cost comes down to just $85.75 a month or $1,030.50 annually.

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"And the longer the commute, the more beneficial the carpool," says carpool manager Lynn Osborn. But she adds that many people who carpool choose to do so more for time benefits than financial reasons. She says surveys show that time and quality of life are big reasons commuters choose car and van pools.

Saving time also motivates parents to enroll in school carpools. For some, the motivation is gas prices, for others the environment stands out.

Many carpooling programs offer incentives to those who commute together. Access to high-occupancy vehicle lanes, bypasses, free or preferential parking at commuter or employer lots are some examples. The Twin Cities' Guaranteed Ride Home program offers money toward a taxi ride home four times a year if a carpool commuter's time doesn't match with that of other riders (such as when having to work late).

An added benefit of school carpooling is that it's a good way for parents to connect, especially those who are new to the area.

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