Meet Tenzin and Wendy - their personal stories and experiences with carpooling (aka "ridesharing") not only show how to save money and time but also how to build relationships.
Tenzin Dolma, a junior at Cornell University, is an avid user of the ridesharing program Zimride for her travels between Ithaca and her home, New York City. Zimride is an online platform that connects local passengers and drivers together for their transportation needs. Passengers and drivers create profiles and specify their travel locations, destinations, times, and rates, and Zimride subsequently provides them with matches.
“It’s just so much faster and cheaper - depending on when you book your ride - compared to taking a bus to the city. The round-trip is almost half the price sometimes. And the ride itself is very interpersonal because you get to know other students on campus. You’re not just sitting by yourself alone waiting for the ride to end. You make conversation with the driver and other passengers. You make friends.” Tenzin recalls how everything from the personalities she encountered to the stops made along the ride became memorable parts of the experience. “You run into these people again sometimes while on campus or in the city and you sort of just remember the fun time you had together.”
Students are also more likely to use ridesharing programs when their existing friends are also using it, so they often book rides together for long trips. That is why Zimride has become particularly popular through word-of-mouth for students and others because of its communal nature. “I learned about Zimride through a friend during freshman year and it has grown like crazy since then.” Communication is an important aspect of how Zimride functions because not only do people have to coordinate their rides via messaging but they can also maintain an ongoing relationship for future rides. Also, passengers can leave reviews for drivers and share their travel experience in order to reinforce quality and trust.
For Wendy Gilmore-Fitzgerald, an advisor in the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives at Cornell University, carpooling is an integral part of her professional and personal life. With the expensive parking permit rates for employees, it is an incentive for Wendy and her wife - both employees of Cornell University - to share one car to work everyday, despite having their own cars and conflicting schedules. While the price of the parking permit is reduced since they are carpooling (it would be free if there was a third person registered on the permit), that cherished time she and her wife share together while driving to and from work is what truly matters. Whether it is listening to music together or discussing the events of their day, these moments together bring substance to their daily routines, even if it means waking up earlier or leaving work later than usual to coordinate their rides. “When you’re always on the go, carpooling just gives you a chance to have a conversation when both of us become too wrapped up in our work. Or taking the bus gives you that 10 minutes you really need to yourself.”
Wendy is also aware of the greater impact her carpooling has on the environment since they are driving 8 to 10 miles a day on one car and barely ever fill up their gas tanks, using perhaps 2 gallons a week. If they are not carpooling, then they are using the bus as an alternative. As a result, they have significantly reduced their potential carbon footprint through their routine, in addition to saving money on parking and fuel. “There are times when I have to take our other car for a drive - just so it is not left standing unused for weeks.” Wendy jokes that she’s also trying to get more into bike-riding but simply doesn’t have the calves for it yet, so carpooling is her way of being sustainable.
Carpooling used to be an informal dynamic that individuals had to seek out and organize on their own time. However, through new technology, it has become easier to become part of a larger ridesharing network, which can help reduce our travel costs, traffic congestion, carbon emissions, and the general stress of driving. Ridesharing is also a venue for building meaningful relationships.
Learn more about local resources for carpooling here.
Learn more about Zimride here.
Interview by Khansa Mahum