Pool the cost of car travel
Irish people have never really taken to the idea of car pooling, but with the recession taking its toll, perhaps now is the time to share the cost of the daily drive to work
WE don't like car pooling in this country. Despite high petrol prices, appalling traffic congestion and crazy parking costs, Irish commuters have never taken in any significant way to the organised sharing of cars.
But with recession time upon us, perhaps it's time to have a re-think.
About one million Irish people use their cars to drive to and from work every day. The average journey time is 34 minutes and the average distance is 14 miles, according to research company Amarach.
A typical car-based commuter therefore spends about €1,500 a year on fuel just getting to and from work. Car pooling with just one other person would halve that cost.
According to the International Energy Agency, car pooling results in the same oil savings as imposing bans on access to the city centre on odd or even days according to car registration.
It's more fuel efficient than reducing the maximum speed limit or offering free public transport on working days, the agency claims.
Several years ago, Peter Seymour attempted to set up a web-based car pooling service for business parks.
"The site is now dormant," he says. "The interest just wasn't there. It's worked well in some places in Britain. The British Airport Authority operates a pooling service for workers at some of its airports and it's very successful. But, for whatever reason, it just hasn't caught on here," he says.
A survey by Amarach on commuter attitudes in 2005 sheds some light on why Irish drivers have been so resistant to pooling.
"Many groups of commuters feel that they can easily afford the current cost of travelling to work by car," the report found.
Nearly a third of commuters said that they would not stop using their cars for travel however high fuel costs became.
"I think what we've seen historically is that you can't get commuters to change their behaviour purely on the basis of a notional saving in money," says Conor Faughnan of AA Roadwatch.
"Of course, that might change with the recession but for car pooling to really take off we need to offer the incentive of faster travel times."
"If you look at the Navan Road, for example, it's choc-a-block with cars every morning and none of those motorists wants to be there, they're hating it but they have no choice. If they thought car pooling would cut out some of that time spent commuting, I think that would be a real motivation to try it."
Mr Faughnan suggests that the Government should introduce a scheme which would allow potential car poolers to apply for a special tag which would allow them to use bus lanes.
"Of course, you'd have to be careful that you don't clog the bus lanes. There could only be a certain number of licenses available and people would have to reapply every year.
In the absence of such a scheme, it's still worth considering whether your daily commute lends itself to car pooling. A good first port of call is the Dublin Traffic website (www.dublintraffic.ie). This site features a commuter calculator which will help determine the cost of your daily commute.
It may be easiest initially to ask around near your home or in your office to see if someone else might be interested.
If that doesn't yield anything then check out the Bulletin Boards section at the Dublin traffic site.
Despite the site's name, there are sections covering Wicklow, Meath, Carlow, Kildare, Wexford and Offaly.
If you do find someone willing to share then it's best to agree terms and conditions in advance. What time and where will you meet each morning and evening? Decide together how long is reasonable to wait if someone doesn't turn up on time.
Be clear about expense sharing and when money should be paid. It's a good idea to agree that whichever car is used is kept in a reasonably clean state.
Establish in advance whether it's smoking or no-smoking in the car; whether music is allowed and at what volume; whether eating and drinking is acceptable during the commute.
Some people like things quiet in the morning; if that's the case, best to make that clear at the outset.
These are the kinds of things that can end up as major irritants and upset a perfectly good car pool arrangement.