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  • Waiting for a ride

Wednesday June 23 The Cost of Commuting

A long cold wait for a ride this morning. I’m early at 6:30 a.m., hoping to get to the gym before work. It’s 55 windy, foggy degrees and about 40 of us shivering riders are lined up waiting for a ride. After 20 minutes I get a ride in a Chevrolet 4-door pickup truck. A handsome 30-something driver greets us. His stained hoody and workboots suggest he might be a housepainter or some kind of construction worker. He says the long line of riders has been typical for the last month. Once we’re underway, traffic is very light – definitely fewer cars out here. Looks like vacation time!

I ask him if he is a regular casual carpool driver and he says yes. “I don’t have the transponder yet, but I’m going to get one. It’s too bad about the toll, but it’s still a good deal at $2.50.”

I’ve been thinking that this might turn out to be a GOOD thing for the carpool lane. When you do the math, (for example if you’re coming from Vallejo and beyond and paying TWO bridge tolls each day) if you don’t drive in the carpool lane you’re going to pay $12 each day, $60 each week, roughly $240 each month, just for the tolls. If you pick up 2 or 3 riders and they contribute a dollar, you will pay nothing. And even if the riders don’t contribute, you’ll only be paying $5 a day, or about $100 a month, if you drive the carpool lane.

For the riders, it’s only going to be $2 bucks a day, if you carpool both ways. Much cheaper than the $24 round trip on the Vallejo Ferry (there is the option of a reduced monthly pass for $290). My BART fare from the Powell Street Station to North Concord is $5.45 one way ($10.90 a day), plus I have to drive back over the Benicia Bridge ($12 a day if I get a ride from my husband both morning and evening). That’s $22.90 a day for BART. So think about that and it might make you feel better when you’re looking at your transportation budget.

Today’s traffic stays light and fast and I have a quick connection to Muni once we’re in the city. I’m at the gym at 7:45 a.m.

2 Responses

  1. That’s all fine and good – in terms of the savings we all have with casual carpool (riders and drivers alike) – but it used to free for everyone! So, yes, money is still being saved but this former perk of carpooling is now gone and I fear the incentive, especially when folks are fighting over a the $2.50 is going to be gone as well. I won’t be surprised when the casual carpool stops start to thin out.

    • Hi Sarah – yeah, I agree, and am very concerned for the future of the Casual Carpool. I know this probably won’t happen, but if a ton of people took to riding and driving Casual Carpool, we could make it work. Although the ‘free’ incentive is gone, it’s still a huge savings and after listening to a lot of carpoolers talk about these issues, there is a strong loyalty to this system. I’m going to try to remain optimistic. Thanks for your comment. We need to hear more.

      Did you catch the KPIX segment on tonight’s 11 PM news? They interviewed casual carpoolers in Oakland and Vallejo, including myself, and pretty well covered these concerns. It may air again on the 6 PM news tomorrow (Tuesday, June 29, Channel 5 San Francisco). Check it out. CG

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