December 17, 2001
Carpoolers, vanpoolers save money, enjoy camaraderie
By Louise Donahue
Commuting to work can be a solitary experience, but not for those who take carpools
or vanpools. In fact, camaraderie--and a big break on parking costs--are often cited
as key benefits for those who share the ride at UCSC.
"We had a party. We all went out to dinner together," said vanpooler Jenny
Anderson, a lecturer in environmental studies and program development person for
that department. Anderson lives between Santa Cruz and Felton, and takes the Boulder
Creek vanpool. "If you have any question you want answered or any problem you
want solved, take it to the van," she joked of her group of riders.
|Ron Hart, heavy-duty technician for TAPS/Fleet Services, checks out a commuter
van. Maintenance of the vehicles is included in vanpoolers' monthly fee. Photo: Louise Donahue
|This is the second of two parts. Last
week's story focused on bicycling and riding the bus.
Vanpools have grown steadily in popularity at UCSC, with 11 now running and a waiting
list of potential rides. The largest number of vanpools goes to Watsonville, according
to Candice Ward, who handles the program at UCSC's Transportation and Parking Services
"I love it. I look forward to it," said Susan Canora of Watsonville. Canora,
coordinator for the provost and college administrative officer for Stevenson College,
catches the van across the street from her house and gets a 25 percent discount for
serving as a backup driver (the regular driver rides for free). As part of her $19.50
per month fee, she also receives a packet of 50 scratch-off parking passes to use
whenever she drives her own car. "You can't beat it financially," she said,
compared with the cost of driving and parking. "I can go two weeks on a tank
of gas. I'm saving $1,200 a year on gas. I wonder how I drove to work all those years."
Repairs and car washes are included in the monthly fee.
Canora concedes that there is some loss of flexibility. "If you're not there
on time, the van leaves, no matter what." On the other hand, vanpoolers receive
an emergency taxi voucher for a free ride home in case of emergency. "It's nice
to know you're not stuck here because you take a vanpool," she said, adding
that she hasn't had to use the taxi option.
Anderson said the strict schedule is a plus for her vanpoolers, who would otherwise
tend to work long hours. "The good thing is, you have to leave at five o'clock."
While Anderson encourages others to give vanpooling a try, she has observed that
it isn't for everyone, and that those with children at home often find it unworkable.
"It doesn't allow much flexibility for morning crises."
Vanpool coordinator Ward gets frequent requests for vanpools, and tells those interested
to give her a list of others who commute from the same area and work a similar schedule.
Ward then matches riders up and recruits volunteer drivers as new vehicles become
available. TAPS applies annually through the Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control
District for vanpool grants, and has just received funding for a new Scotts Valley-Felton
vanpool, which will begin operation in July 2002.
Another alternative that saves drivers money is the carpool. Beginning this fall,
half-price parking for carpoolers with A or B permits has been extended to students
with C permits.
Betsy Wootten said she had never considered carpooling before being approached about
a year ago by Corinne Taylor Cyngiser, who had no car at the time. Both work at Kresge--Wootten
as supervisor of faculty services and Cyngiser as a department assistant in women's
studies--making the match convenient. Wootten, who lives in Felton, picks Cyngiser
up at the bus stop there. Cyngiser takes a bus from Ben Lomond to the Felton
"I'm looking at it more for cost-saving and she's looking at it more for the
environmental impact," said Wootten, who benefits from using a carpool permit.
Cyngiser describes the arrangement as a good balance of convenience, cost and environmental
awareness. Both enjoy the chance to talk during the drive, and Cyngiser urges others
to try carpooling. "It's really easy. All you've got to do is find one other
person who lives in your area."
UCSC's long-distance carpoolers have plenty of time for conversation. Colleagues
Mary Beth Pudup and Nancy Stoller in community studies have a carpool relationship
that has lasted longer than many marriages. For more than 10 years, the two San Franciscans
have coordinated teaching schedules as much as possible, usually driving to work
three days a week. "It's great for brainstorming," said Pudup, whose husband
teaches at Berkeley. "It's the times that I don't carpool that I don't like."
Stoller, a professor of community studies, and Pudup, an associate professor,
are far from the only UCSC commuters making their way to work from the Bay Area.
David Wellman, a professor in community studies, and Herman Gray, professor of sociology,
have also carpooled for years from the Bay Area. Wellman, who lives in Richmond,
and Gray, who lives in Oakland, alternate driving and stay late or come early to
accommodate each other's schedules. "It takes flexibility and commitment, but
mostly it makes life a lot easier. We call it the seminar on wheels. We've become
really close friends as a result of the commute." By using the carpool lane,
Wellman estimates the two save about half an hour on the road.
The Bay Area commuters have some suggestions for making things easier for others
in their situation.
"I would really like TAPS to assist the longer-distance commuters--especially
faculty and graduate students from the Bay Area--by helping us get in touch with
each other. The opportunity to sign up on a list of potential UCSC-San Francisco
Bay Area commuters each quarter via an advertised web site would be an enormous help,
especially if folks had the opportunity to list their commuting days and their general
location," Stoller said.
TAPS Director Wes Scott suggested Bay Area commuters may be able to arrange a match
through the Commute Solutions web
site and noted that there is currently room on the vanpool that operates between
Los Gatos and the campus.
Lisa Rofel, an associate professor of anthropology, is organizing a system of ride
coordination, which could eventually include a vanpool group. Those interested should
e-mail information on their home
area and travel times.
Wellman, who has been on various search committees, said he thought efforts to
make such commutes easier could improve recruitment at UCSC. "If we're going
to recruit faculty of color and women, we're going to have to be open to the possibility
of them living in the Bay Area."
He suggested a bus that leaves at a regular time and goes to the BART station in
Fremont and the Caltrain station in San Jose. "A lot of people could work with
that," Wellman said.
"Since there aren't sufficient funds available for the campus to operate an
'over-the-hill' transit service," Scott said, "persons desiring transit
service between the Bay Area and Santa Cruz should look into using the Santa Cruz
Metropolitan Transit District Highway 17 Express.
Amtrak also offers an over-the-hill service
to the Amtrak Station."
Return to Front Page