Of all the reducing and simplifying I’ve done so far, the biggest gain so far has come from scaling back to one car. Granted, we’re at a stage of life where that’s easier. We have no kids at home and I’m now within biking distance of work (or my husband can drive me there if he needs the car). The economic benefits of not maintaining an added car are great and I love that we’ve structured our lives now so we that every trip doesn’t need to be driven.
I was surprised, then, to read a recent article called “Once Popular, Car Pools Go the Way of Hitchhiking” in the New York Times. Essentially, carpooling has fallen out of vogue. They say the rate has nearly halved since 1980 when the numbers were first tracked. Why? Apparently car prices are cheaper and the workforce has spread out. More people are owning more cars. In fact, rates of car ownership have outpaced population growth (i.e. there are more cars in the driveway than drivers to drive them.)
I wonder if the trend can also be attributed to increased life complexity. When we moved recently I lost the option to walk to work and I reconsidered carpooling. There are five of us who live within a 1 mile radius all going to the same place. We’ve had conversations about carpooling and even bikepooling. We’re an energy and health conscious group. Still, we haven’t been able to make it happen. Schedule preferences, outside obligations and unexpected life events made the few times we did try planning it a complex “if this, then that” brain teaser. The beauty of the simple concept of sharing a ride was lost in the frustration of finding a solution that worked for everyone. I’m disappointed by that.
If we, who live so close to work and believe strongly in the benefits of combining resources are defeated by coordination logistics, it’s no wonder the rates have dropped so much. What with trip chaining (i.e. stopping at the grocery store, picking up a birthday gift and a child from childcare on the drive home), the effects of sprawl, multiple people in the family working (and sometimes at more than one job) and various other events to coordinate in family’s daily routine, it’s no wonder carpooling rates have drastically declined (and traffic, the time it takes to get anywhere, the risk of an accident, and the money needed to keep everything running continues to increase creating the need for working longer hours or an extra job). I’m exhausted just thinking about it.
All the more reason to simply. Less is more. And maybe if we lighten our lives, we can breathe more deeply and pause from the chaos. Or at least share a ride to work with a friend.