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Carpooling: Rules of the Road, Part 6

If you’ve already read this introduction, swipe down to #6, below.

Mobility managers are often tasked to facilitate and manage carpools. Carpools are an integral of a TDM strategy to reduce traffic congestion and parking demand. There are many societal, organizational and personal benefits to carpools, which we will cover elsewhere.

This series will discuss different aspects of running a successful program that maximizes the participants’ satisfaction and minimizes the negatives sometimes associated with the experience. We will focus our attention on the carpool itself, from the time the carpool begins each day, to the time it ends.

Feel free to forward this post link or copy and paste our text into your circulars to your carpoolers (with attribution, please: “Courtesy of the H2H2H Foundation at www.h2h2h.org.”)

Rules of the Road

Carpool program members need to make some basic decisions about how the carpool will operate on a day-to-day basis. Agreement on these points is critical to long term success of each carpool and the satisfaction of the participants. Carpool members often bail out because these details, these “Rules of the Road”, haven’t been agreed-upon in advance. When enough members quit, the carpool collapses.

It’s better if mobility managers don’t mandate Rules of the Road for the entire program, but rather, present them as decision points for each pool. A program with numerous pools can have widely varying sets of self-imposed rules; it’s not a one-size-fits-all experience.

We do offer our “recommendations” as we proceed, however. Since carpooling is an “experience”, let’s break these up these considerations into the way we experience anything: through our perceptions and senses.

No Sensory Overloads

Here’s the scene: A carpool places several people in close proximity to each other, certainly an immediate violation of most people’s personal space. Carpool participants may not know each other well – or at all. All are locked in a small, containerized metal box (car) for up to two hours during the commute. Their freedom of movement is extremely limited. Each participant brings to the carpool their concerns for the day left behind at home and the workday ahead.

Since humans are societal animals, senses and perception are heightened under these conditions. Everyone is on edge, not necessarily in a disturbed or negative way, but in a manner that could become so. Since the senses are on high alert, far less stimulus is required to agitate an individual or the group. Finally, let’s remember that many of us are not at our best first thing in the morning or after a hard day of work.

Therefore, we’re not suggesting sensory deprivation here, but rather, sensory conservation. The point: Let’s not overstimulate everyone.

1. Time – covered in Part 1.

2. Temperature – covered in Part 2.

3. Balance – covered in Part 3.

4. Hearing – covered in Part 4.

5. Tasting – covered in Part 5.

6. Touching – Touching is an intimate part of the human experience. Not so much in a carpool. The meaning of personal space varies between cultures and in some, does not exist. Thus, the common denominator is to respect personal space. A smart Rule of the Road to start with is providing each member of the group the maximum personal space possible and draw closer from there.

It’s important to size the carpool group according to the smallest vehicle that will be needed to move the group. A compact car will create a high level of discomfort for a group sized for an eight-passenger van. Occasional crowding might be necessary if the van is being serviced and the compact is an emergency substitute. However, if the compact car is in a regular rotation as the vehicle of the day, expect some carpoolers to drop out based solely on that fact.

Unwelcome touches, even if meant to be friendly caresses, are wholly inappropriate behavior for a group member unless the subject of that attention is a close friend, relative, significant other, etc. Such incidents should be called out by the driver, as boss of the day, or by others who witness the event. It’s a carpool, not a singles bar.

Participants should also refrain from playing with window switches and locks, except to perform the function for which they were designed. Peering into the glovebox or other vehicle storage compartments out of idle curiosity is also unseemly.

Now, what did we miss? Please let us know in your comments below.

Hop these links to navigate our Carpooling “Rules of the Road” series:

Part 1 – Time

Part 2 – Temperature

Part 3 – Balance

Part 4 – Hearing

Part 5 – Tasting

Part 6 – Touching

Part 7 – Seeing

Part 8 – Smelling

Part 9 – Satisfaction

(Want more information? Please check out our forums. If you have comments or suggestions, please share your experiences and ideas with us and other professionals visiting our site. Add your comments below – if Comments are “on” – or by contacting us directly here. Our How-2 series are written by mobility management professionals for mobility management professionals. Thank you for helping H2 become the how-to resource in public and private transportation management.)

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