Curl up with this year's Housing Guide for dorm friendly recipes, curfew throwbacks and more, click here

Going my way?

With the price of gas steadily rising, so is the cost of commuting. If students want more money in their pockets and less time spent working part-time jobs to pay the bills, they might benefit from car- or vanpooling.

Many students travel 30 or more minutes to get to school. This time could be spent studying, preparing for tests or catching a few extra Z’s. In carpools, the time spent driving is split between members, and while one drives the passengers can do these things. Commuting in groups also cuts transportation costs, in addition to providing a great way for students to branch out and meet new people.

“I carpool regularly with someone who lives nearby in my community,” said Cindy Wooten, an employee on campus. “The commute is 20 minutes, and we switch off. I drive one week, and she drives the next. I find it to be cost saving and less stressful. It works well, and people need to give it a chance.”

Bay Area Commuter Services (BACS) provides the link between people who are interested in car- or vanpooling. The service offers information to the public through TampaBayRideShare.org and the Tampa Bay Commuter, a monthly newspaper. Through these outlets, commuters can find others from their area who are traveling to the same destination and match up by registering with the ride-sharing program or personally calling others.

“The service works in a few different ways,” Executive Director of BACS Sandra Moody said. “Commuters can go online to our Web site, register with the service and post an ad with information about their local area and destination that will go online and in our monthly newspaper so other commuters can match up. In order to arrange a ride, sometimes people call you, and sometimes they call the agency … it all depends on what method they’re most comfortable with.”

Sometimes, in commuting situations, one may not be able to get a ride when absolutely necessary. The ride-sharing program helps eliminate that problem.

“When you register for the ride- sharing program, you become eligible for the emergency ride home,” Moody said. “There is a limit of eight emergency taxi rides home per year for each person signed up with the ride-sharing program. The limit is $100 per ride, and the commuter must be ride sharing for two or more days per week. People must remember, however, that this is available for emergency situations only.”

Carpooling does cut down the cost of commuting, but students might wonder whether it is more of a hassle than it’s worth, given the erratic nature of their schedules. The key, according to Moody, is being flexible with other commuters.

“Being flexible makes ride sharing easier,” said Moody. “Students might have to arrive on campus an hour or so early or leave later in order to accommodate the people they’re carpooling with, but they could make use of the extra time by studying.”

Another option for commuting especially long distances is to vanpool. In that setup, a group of seven to 15 commuters trade off driving a passenger van and split the cost of its operation.

“All members are signed up for the month and must pay a fee even if they aren’t riding in the van every workday,” Moody said.

Vanpools are a good option for people on typical work schedules, but students might not benefit from them as much as they would from carpooling.

“Our vanpools are typically made up of a group of employees working on a regular 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. or 7 a.m. – 4 p.m. schedule. A lot of times the people in vanpools are all traveling to the same place of work and working the same hours. Knowing this, I think most students would be better off with carpooling,” Moody said.

To that end, USF’s Center for Urban Transportation Research is in the process of expanding its focus to make the carpool process more accessible to students.

“Right now we are in the process of creating a carpool matching service that caters specifically to students. The service will probably be available at the start of next year,” said Julie Bond, director of the New North Transportation Alliance at CUTR.

Aside from car- and vanpooling, BACS also supports the local Hartline Bus System, bicycle pools and walking. Students who are interested in any of these options or want to learn more about the carpool matching system can log on to TampaBayRideShare.org or call the BACS offices at 1-800-RIDE.