Sharing Excellence in Parking & Mobility Management

Carpooling: Rules of the Road, Part 1

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 – Humans perceive the passage – and value of – time. An effective carpool sets a schedule and sticks to it, unless the unanticipated occurs. It’s important for each individual in the group to express his/her time concerns in the carpool planning stage (e.g., “I need to pick up a child in day care no later than 6 p.m.” – or – “I have to be at my desk everyday by 9 a.m.”).

The Rule for the Road here is that the carpool should manage its time well. This means no unnecessary stops during the carpool journey. This begins with the driver for the day ensuring the carpool vehicle is clean, gassed up, and ready to roll before the carpool day begins.

Everyone should be punctual – drivers and riders – no one should wait more than a few minutes past the appointed pickup times without an update to the group. If there is a change to the schedule, such as vacations or family gatherings, it is the responsibility of the individual who will not be participating in the carpool for a time to advise the group. Social media and text groups are an efficient way to communicate these temporary changes.

Participants should plan their personal time so that it should rarely – or never- be necessary for the carpool to stop for the needs of one party. For example, it’s helpful if everyone addresses their restroom needs before entering the carpool. The carpool should only make a “pitstop” if all agree.

Yet some flexibility and common sense is required. If someone forgot milk is needed for a child at home, well, okay. Pick up dry cleaning? Maybe not. Participants should seek the approval of the group, not just the driver, if an unplanned stop is to be made.

Carpoolers should remember that always saying yes to requests for nonessential stops sets a precedent. Always saying no also sets a precedent, as riders may find themselves needing to stop someday.

Did we miss anything? Please let us know in your comments below.

Hop these links to 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

(Image courtesy of Anders Porter via Flickr. 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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