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 www.lawrencetransit.org. 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."