By 7:45 a.m. Wednesday, the commuter parking lot at U.S. 63 and Route AC was filling up. Sixty-five of the 82 parking spots were occupied, and drivers heading to jobs in Jefferson City continued to trickle in.
Staff from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources Energy Center were offering cookies and juice to welcome early morning commuters and publicize the Mid-Missouri Rideshare Program. The program, for example, helps people living as far away as Boonville, Fulton or Lake of the Ozarks find others with whom they can commute to work in Jefferson City and Columbia.
Larry Archer, a public information coordinator for the department, said the idea was to highlight carpooling as a way for commuters to save on fuel expenses as well as to emphasize the environmental benefits.
“What it will do is draw some attention to carpooling and make some folks realize, ‘Wow, there’s a lot of folks out there doing it, and this is a real quick way for me to cut my gas bill in half,’” Archer said. “With gas now sitting at $2.59 a gallon, that’s a significant chunk.”
According to a fall 2006 DNR newsletter, based on current gas prices to fill a vehicle that gets 25 miles per gallon, adding an additional rider would reduce gas expenditures by $1,152 per year and adding two riders would lead to $1,536 in savings.
Archer said that although new carpoolers most often worry about personal inconvenience, they tend to find scheduling with fellow pool members is less complicated than they might think.
“If someone in the pool can’t stay on the regular schedule, then they have to drive themselves, but usually you can plan for that kind of thing,” said Harold Stearley, an attorney at the Missouri Public Service Commission in Jefferson City. He has been sharing rides with two other (government) workers since August 2005 and estimates it saves him $10 a day.
“It’s a thing we adjust to, but probably we’re able to do it at least four times a week, so it’s substantial savings,” he said.
Archer said the majority of the carpoolers making the 70-mile round trip daily between Columbia and Jefferson City are state employees.