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Sharing Excellence in Parking & Mobility Management

Carpooling: Rules of the Road, Part 8

If you’ve already read this introduction, swipe down to #8, 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”)

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 – covered in Part 6.

7. Seeing – covered in Part 7.

8. Smelling – The sense of smell in combination with the sense of balance (or equilibrioception, as we discussed in # 3, “Balance”, previously) can rapidly deteriorate a pleasant commute into motion sickness and nausea. Suggested Rule for the Road: Avoid overpowering odors – whether cologne or curry – for those cloistered in the carpool.

Mobility managers should consider at least screening for smokers when forming carpools. A group should be advised if someone is a smoker before the group is formed and decide whether they want to include smokers. Although a few carpools allow active smoking, the mere scent of smoky residues left on clothes and breath is enough to offend nonsmokers.

Smokers should be considerate in minimizing their smoke saturation levels and being cognizant that some might find these odors sickening. Longshot idea: It may be possible to link smokers together as a carpool group and allow them the possibility of even enjoying a smoke in the cars of consenting drivers.

Colognes and perfumes are supposed to augment personal presentation, but its more pleasant for all riders if the bearers of these wonderful scents “top off” when they get to work after carpool has reached its destination, rather than just before entering the carpool.

Colognes and perfumes are an upgrade over body odor, however. Personal hygiene is critical to a carpool’s success. Yet this is a touchy, personal subject. It’s difficult to tell someone they stink. This is where the Mobility Manager can play the villain by reminding the offender of the concerns of the group.

In dealing with “Taste” (#5, previously), we discussed the best practice of not eating during the carpool transit. A further suggestion here might be similar to the informal rules in workplace break rooms about not microwaving fish or spicy dishes.

Right before joining the carpool is probably not the best time to test that pickled herring, jerk saltfish or opossum pie recipes you’ve been dying to try.

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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