By Nika Hancock
Published: August 2008
Everyone is complaining about the high cost of gas. But did you ever stop and figure out just how much you might be spending a year for gas? If you worked at Texas A&M, lived five miles from campus, drove to work five days a week and went home for lunch at least three days, you would log eighty miles on your odometer. Assuming a gas price of $4 per gallon for an average car getting 20 MPG, the annual cost could be around $832 just for work travel. But the average person drives about 40 miles per day, which comes to $2,920 in annual cost. What if you could cut this number by sharing a ride with one or more people?
In 2007, Texas A&M University Transportation Services launched the “AlterNetRides” program, a free ride sharing service designed to ease the burn of high gas prices. The concept is simple: sign up on-line and indicate where you want to share rides to and from and search for other people that match your criteria. In about ten minutes, you can sign up and post your ride sharing information – all that is required is a valid email address. The system is designed so that others do not see you personal information, but if you find a potential match, the system will enable you to email that person and begin a conversation about the possibility of carpooling.
According to the Texas A&M Newswire, “riders are ultimately responsible for what they communicate with other riders and for their own safety.” Tips include getting work verification, checking for valid driver’s license and insurance, asking for references, and meeting in person in a public place before making a final decision to share a ride. When setting up an account, users can designate preferences such as smoking or non-smoking, radio choices, and whether they want to drive, ride, or alternate.
June Broughton, Marketing & Communications Manager for Transportation Services, says that there are more than 200 participants at this time. She says the program has “seen a great increase in activity. Participants have more than tripled in the last month. As fuel costs continue to rise and customers look for alternative means of transportation, we expect the program to grow.” The current list of persons looking to share a ride includes students, faculty, and staff from Bryan and College Station, but also from surrounding towns such as Caldwell, Hearne, and Navasota.
Aside from the obvious benefits like saving on gas and parking costs, the program offers other incentives as well. Currently, oil change and car service coupons are given out to participants. If you want to see the kind of difference you are making, a CO2 Emission Savings calculator is available. This fall, Broughton says that a commuter challenge will be launched in competition with other universities with weekly prize drawings for participants. Texas State, North Texas, and the University of Texas are among the universities in this state that also have an AlterNetRides program.
The AlterNetRides service is part of a larger organization called the AlterNetWays Company and is used by organizations all over the country. It claims the service is fast, simple to use and makes it easy to find others wanting to carpool or rideshare. Nationwide, Texas ranks second only to California on the number of documented ride shares complete, and at this time, riders in Bryan/College Station contribute to the majority of those rides to the count.
To sign up, go to: http://transport.tamu.edu/