Archive for Wednesday, July 5, 2006

City helps commuters meet their match

July 5, 2006


On her daily commute to Kansas City, Lawrence resident Lijia Lyles counts the dollars she's saving by carpooling.

"When the price of gasoline went up last summer, it was just ridiculous," Lyles said. "I was spending more and more of my leisure money on gas."

Lyles' carpooling partner, Janette Crawford, counts something different: sheep.

"Most of the time when she is driving, I get to sit here and sleep," Crawford said. "That is so nice."

City leaders are hoping to make it easier for Lawrence commuters to discover their own joys of carpooling. The city's Public Transit Department has launched a Web site devoted to helping commuters find a carpooling partner.

People can access the site, called Carpool Connection, at The site asks people for basic information, such as where they start their commute, where they end it, their work hours, their gender, their willingness to drive and even whether they are a smoker.

Based on preferences the user selects, the computer program spits out a list of potential matches, along with their e-mail addresses, so a connection can be made.

"It is an easy way to find someone," said Emily Lubliner, a public relations specialist for the transit department. "You can e-mail them and start carpooling right away, or you can meet them in a public place and find out a little more information about them."

The city, which announced in February that it was working on the site, spent $24,000 to partner with the Mid-America Regional Council in Kansas City, Mo., to create the Web site. It quietly launched in early June, and since then has attracted 450 registered users. About 60 of them are from the Lawrence area, with the rest mainly from the Kansas City area.

The Lawrence numbers figure to grow. According to a 2005 report from the Census Bureau, nearly 12,000 Lawrence residents commute to a job outside the city. About that many also commute in from smaller counties, such as Jefferson and Franklin counties. Residents in those counties would be allowed to use the new Lawrence service, which is free to everyone.

The Lawrence program is similar to several others started by communities across the country. One of the first was in the Fort Collins, Colo., area. That service began in late 2004 and has had more than 3,000 people sign up seeking a carpool partner.

Lubliner believes Lawrence's service will grow, not only because the city has an ample supply of commuters but also because the community has been interested in reducing pollution and improving congestion.

"There's a lot of advantages to carpooling," Lubliner said. "It can probably be a little intimidating if you've never carpooled before. But I think once people give it a try and maybe go that extra step to meet the person beforehand that they'll be really happy with it."


good_kitty 11 years, 5 months ago

Instead of being forced to rely on a car, how about light rail between here and KC or even an express bus? Carpooling is great and it's definitely a step in the right direction but we as a society need to move away from the car as sole mode of transportation and move towards mass transit. HOORAY FOR MASS TRANSIT!!!!!!!!!

OldEnuf2BYurDad 11 years, 5 months ago

The problem with the bus/rail suggestion is usefulness. KC is "big". A light rail into downtown KCMO would be great for those commuters, but we commute to all areas of the city, and it isn't a pedestrian-friendly city. If the train/bus didn't let you off within a few blocks of your workplace, then you really can't get much use out of it. If it did stop in all those places, it'd stop so often that you'd be spending 2 hours just to get to Grandview. I worked with a guy who lived in Praire Village and took "The Jo" to work. It took him nearly two hours to get from P.V. to downtown. It wasn't worth it, so he went back to driving.

KC needs a rail system, badly. But doing it right would cost ga-gillions of dollars. Not doing it "right" would be a waste of money.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 5 months ago

"But doing it right would cost ga-gillions of dollars. "

The current sprawl and interstate system cost a ga-gillion dollars to construct, and will countless ga-gallions more to maintain and operate, contributing to global warming along the way, and the ga-gallions that will cost aren't even imaginable, much less calculable.

At some point, we as a society are going to have to recognize the bad choices we are living with and paying for, and then bite the bullet and pay for the more sensible alternatives rather than continuing with the unsustainable status quo.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 11 years, 5 months ago

"The current sprawl and interstate system cost a ga-gillion dollars to construct"

But that's just it: we already built it. Cities like KC should have put in rail systems 50 years ago. Now, we'd have to spend... an outrageous amount of money... for a rail system. Installing a system is different from maintaining an existing system, which is why we we will probably never get rid of the automobile.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 5 months ago

Maintenance and operation of rail systems are cheaper than for car/truck/highway systems. Especially when you factor in costs created by global warming. They can't be replaced overnight, but rather than expanding highway systems, put the money into mass transit-- way cheaper in the long run.

erichaar 11 years, 5 months ago

I think most would be in favor of light rail or commuter rail if it paid for itself. My honest question is, will it?

And I'm not talking about the savings accrued because some won't need to own a car and others will save money on gas. What I mean is, on a balance sheet will it break even or better?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 5 months ago

Cars, trucks and the highway system don't pay for themselves-- why put a higher standard on a more efficient system?

erichaar 11 years, 5 months ago

An interesting point. If it will pay for itself through the highway taxes we already pay, then let's do it.

Sigmund 11 years, 5 months ago

The fact is that Topeka/KC/Lawrence are not densely populated enough to make light rail feasible. The last I looked the only larger Metro in terms of square miles than KC was Oklahoma City, and that did not include Lawrence and Topeka. There is no way any light rail system is going to meet any significant number of peoples needs that it will justify taxing all the commuters and non-commuters alike to pay for it.

But assume for the sake of arguement it gets built, I most likely would not use it. My schedule varies, I sometimes go in late and stay late or vice versa. Unless your schedule matches the train schedule and the connecting schedules to get to the stations it just takes too long to get from here to there.

As an example, currently it would take me two and a half hours or more to make a trip to Home Depot to buy a $15 garden hose by Lawrence Bus and that assumes that I want to go when it is most convenient to the Bus company schedule. That same round trip in my car takes a half hour. If I am going to buy more than one item I will have to lug them from bus to bus. Most people simply are not willing to spend that much time when they have a more efficient way.

Even if light rail only doubled my commute time to and from KC I would be unwilling to pay that price. I can always get a more efficient car and reduce that expense. It is a trivial exercise to get more miles/gallon. There currently isn't anything I can do to get more hours/day. Trains are attempt to apply 19th century technology to a 21st century problem and unless the population density at least doubles, it just isn't going to work.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 5 months ago

"The fact is that Topeka/KC/Lawrence are not densely populated enough to make light rail feasible."

There was a successful interurban system here during the early 20th century when the population was less than half what we now have.

Sigmund 11 years, 5 months ago

At a time when horse and buggy's was the alternative and it was so successful it doesn't exist anymore. I think it is important to analyse the current situtation in light of current realities instead of living in the past.

erichaar 11 years, 5 months ago

Thanks to Sigmund, I think I understand the issue better. There's no way to make it an efficient system; it's either too expensive to ever build, or, if it get's built, it won't be used enough to justify the enormous cost.

Sigmund 11 years, 5 months ago

Oh, and I bet KC was alot more densely populated then. Density is people/square mile and while there are more people today they werent as spread out. KC was not the sprawl it is today.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 5 months ago

The train system went from Topeka to KC, and to several towns in the now KC metro area. Overall density in these areas is clearly much greater than it was 75-100 years ago.

Most certainly the private car killed that system. But since peak oil/global warming is just about to kill the private car, the time is ripe to bring back this much more efficient means of transport.

Sigmund 11 years, 5 months ago

Despite the fact that there is a division among scientist who work directly in the field of climatology with respect to man made global warming (cf the Canada Free Press link below), your point is well taken. Unwillingness to drill for oil on US soil has led to a situation where the US is now having to pay the same price for gas as the rest of the world not to mention complicating (to say the least) US foriegn policy.

Fuel cells seem to be very close to the point where they may soon be the most cost effective energy source for private cars and replacing the internal combustion engine will be the next big technological advance. Mass transit systems have another problem in the age of terrorism, their large centralised systems make them vulnerable as targets.

Of course I still want my nuclear powered flying Delorean. I could live in Lawrence and commute to Chicago on even days of the week and to LA on odd numbered days.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 5 months ago

"Despite the fact that there is a division among scientist who work directly in the field of climatology with respect to man made global warming"

That's an interesting way to describe near unanimity.

Sigmund 11 years, 5 months ago

Since you couldnt be bothered to read the article I'll paste the parts I was refering to

"Carter is one of hundreds of highly qualified non-governmental, non-industry, non-lobby group climate experts who contest the hypothesis that human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) are causing significant global climate change. "Climate experts" is the operative term here. Why? Because what Gore's "majority of scientists" think is immaterial when only a very small fraction of them actually work in the climate field"

"Patterson concluded his testimony by explaining what his research and "hundreds of other studies" reveal: on all time scales, there is very good correlation between Earth's temperature and natural celestial phenomena such changes in the brightness of the Sun."

In other words changes in global tempatures appear more related to celestial phenomena which is unlikey to be changed by human activity of any kind. Sorry if the facts dont support your social agenda.

But it is good to see that you have conceded that 19th century technology is not an effecient solution to 21st century problems.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 5 months ago

Interesting theory, but it's merely an alternative to one that has a mass of data behind it, along with many thousands of experts who interpret it as indicating human-induced global warming.

I hope other reseachers pick up on this other theory and test it out. If it's valid, we need to know that.

In the meantime, there isn't any reason not to transform the way we do business to much more efficient, and therefore cost effective, methods-- especially with the possibility of peak oil providing a second reason not to burn it up so wastefully.

I prefer to err on the side of caution, because the stakes couldn't be any higher.

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