Commuter service connects students with car pool options

by Heather Fors

For many students, cheaper parking rates for carpooling don’t outweigh the freedom of driving alone.
But a local commuter help service is trying to get people to consider other alternatives to driving solo. Thus far, commuter participation has been low.
Metro Commuter Services, formerly called Minnesota Ride Share, offers commuters a way to establish car pools with others in close proximity to their homes with similar destinations and schedules.
There are 1,475 University commuters registered with Metro Commuter Services. These are people who have called the service and added their personal information to the extensive database of other commuters throughout the Twin Cities.
But many University students say the inconvenience of relying on others for transportation and having others rely on them is a major detraction to carpooling.
“You don’t have the freedom to do what you need to do,” said David Laufenburger, a College of Liberal Arts senior who drives to the University from his home south of Lake Street. “It takes away from the convenience.”
Perhaps this is why only 881 of the almost 1,500 commuters who are registered actually participate in car and van pools. More than 500 of these people represent commuters who use transit or pools not registered with the service.
Cari Hatcher, public relations representative of Parking and Transportation Services, said students call her everyday inquiring about car pool services.
Nicole Hostetler, a College of Liberal Arts senior who commutes from south St. Paul everyday, wanted to find a more economical way to school. However, much to her chagrin, Hostetler was connected with only one other commuter in her area.
Because of conflicting schedules, their car pool was forced to disband.
“Our database is only as good as those people who call in and participate,” said Trish Moga, a representative for Metro Commuter Services. Moga said they try to encourage people to ask others in their neighborhood, including friends and family, to carpool.
These are not the only factors students consider. “My schedule’s so erratic I don’t think it would be worth it,” Laufenburger said.
Although many commuter students said they liked the idea of carpooling, their constantly changing schedules and busy lifestyles prohibit them from even considering carpooling.
“I can see it working better for people with jobs,” said John Pederson, a liberal arts sophomore who drives to the University from Roseville. He said people with jobs have set schedules that don’t fluctuate as much.
With this detail in mind, Metro Commuter Services recruits commuters from businesses all around the Twin Cities. University Parking and Transportation Services also heavily promotes the services not only to student commuters, but to staff and faculty as well.
The University advocates carpooling even further by providing lots on the East and West Banks as well as in St. Paul just for car poolers. As an incentive for carpooling, these commuters only pay $1 per day.
The goal of Parking and Transportation and Metro Commuter Services is to get people out of the habit of driving alone.