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Sharing the ride works for 1 in 10

Some bay area commuters tout their gains.

By Christina Rexrode, Times Staff Writer
Published June 15, 2007


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Carpooling apparently is still for soccer moms, not office workers.

Only 10.7 percent of American workers - and 10 percent of Tampa Bay area workers - are part of a car pool, according to a U.S. Census report released this week.

That figure, based on 2005 data, is a couple of percentage points lower than in the early 1990s, proving that increasing gas prices do not equal increasing carpooling.

It says something that Dagwood Bumstead is the country's most famous carpooler, doesn't it?

But think of the benefits: By sharing a ride to work, you can reduce congestion, cut down on pollution, and give someone else the pleasure of navigating the Veterans Expressway.

Still not convinced? Here are a few more perks:

Time for friendship

Ann Hartman and Sharon Zegalia carpool most days from Sun City Center to Tampa General Hospital 30 miles away, where Hartman works in human resources and Zegalia works at the education center.

They've known each other for a long time, having both worked at the hospital for about 25 years, Hartman said. But a few years ago, when they started carpooling, their friendship really deepened. When Hartman's husband died recently, Zegalia was over "in the blink of an eye," Hartman said.

It's nice to always have someone to talk to about work, or family, or whatever else comes up during the drive, said Hartman, 63. "So by the time we get home, we're both relaxed," she said. "It's pretty hectic at work."

Money to save

Wade Pitzer joined a car pool about six months ago, largely because of high gas prices. Pitzer, who works in server support at Raymond James headquarters in St. Petersburg, lives 36 miles away in Land O'Lakes. He figures he would be spending $100 a week on gas if he were driving by himself; in his five-person car pool, he chips in $25 each week.

He had to tweak his work schedule to fit with the car pool's, and now, if he wants to leave the office for lunch, he has to hitch a ride. "But it's worth it to me," Pitzer said, "so that I'm not going through two tanks of gas every week."

And though it went against his nature to cede control of the steering wheel, he figures that's to his benefit as well.

"I would have gotten a speeding ticket by now," Pitzer said. "There's all kinds of ways I'm saving money."

Sleeping on the ride

Judy Polatschek lives in Hernando Beach but works 60 miles away at Raymond James. She feels lucky that she can catch an extra hour of sleep each morning because she rides in a car pool - the same one that Pitzer is in.

"All the time, people ask me what's wrong with me," she said, referring to her long commute. "I just tell them I'm nuts. It's easier."

Polatschek, a business analyst, doesn't want to move closer to work because she wouldn't be able to afford to live on the water. But she doesn't want to work in Hernando County, because she can't find anything that pays well or suits her. "I tried working in Spring Hill," said Polatschek, 52, "and there were about three computer jobs and they were all antiquated."

Fast Facts:
Want to carpool?
Visit the Web site of Bay Area Commuter Services, www.TampaBayRideShare.org, and click on Ez-Ride. You'll fill out a short questionnaire on where you live, where you work, and your work schedule, and BACS will e-mail you a list of potential carpool partners.
We'll keep truckin'
There was a time when analysts predicted that we would start to significantly change our driving habits - e.g., by carpooling - once gas hit $3 a gallon. Been there, done that, didn't change our driving. So last month, in a poll by the Washington Post and ABC News, Americans said gas would have to hit an average of $4.38 a gallon before they really cut back on driving.

By the numbers
11.1 percent of Florida workers who carpooled in 2005.
1.8 percent of Florida workers who took public transit in 2005.
10.7 percent of workers nationwide who carpooled in 2005.
4.7 percent of workers nationwide who took public transit in 2005.
12.9 percent of Florida workers who carpooled in 2000.
12.2 percent of workers nationwide who carpooled in 2000.
13.4 percent of workers nationwide who carpooled in 1990.
Source: American Community Survey 2005

[Last modified June 14, 2007, 23:10:20]


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