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Carpooling saves all kinds of green

Passenger-filled vehicles reduce gas emissions and money

When Dieter Ayers moved to Squamish, he had two choices for commuting to work in Vancouver, he would either buy a vehicle or join a carpool.

Rather than indulge in personal convenience, he chose to carpool, and in doing so chose to better the environment, save money and create the possibility of making new friends in town.

"I don't need to buy second car. There is insurance and gas and wear and tear and you probably have to change it in 10 years," Ayers said.

Ayers, a statistician at the St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver, moved to Squamish in 2006 for its small town feel and rock climbing opportunities.

While searching for carpools, he stumbled on the Jack Bell Ride-Share website, a charitable society that provides van and carpooling services in B.C.

Ayer pays $250 a month for using Jack Bell Ride-Share with three other people. He figures he is saving at least $5,000 to $7,000 a year by not having his own car.

However, potential carpoolers should also be aware of some inflexibility.

"If we want to stay in town or if I'm a bit late, I can't do that. If I sleep in, I miss my ride. The inflexibility is the drawback," he said.

Despite that glitch, he said everyone works together to make sure the carpool works effectively. And even more so when the carpoolers become friends.

"We get out now and then. We've been out for some bike rides. It helped me when I moved to town," he said.

It also helps the environment.

According to Environment Canada, transportation represents the largest single source of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions at 27 per cent. In B.C., vehicles are responsible for 45 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions.

According to Seattle-based Sightline Institute, a think tank committed to promoting sustainability, a small car emits about half a pound of carbon dioxide per mile. The figure for a medium car is one pound per mile, while an SUV emits one and a half pounds.

In Squamish nine vehicles - five cars and four vans - operate through the Jack Bell Ride-Share, according to Sandy Kwan, a spokesperson for the organization.

A van carries seven passengers, thus cutting down the emission by almost eight pounds per mile. That's just for one van, when compared to a single occupancy vehicle. The number for private carpools in town is not known.

Kwan said Jack Bell Ride-Share in Squamish was first started in Squamish in 2002, with just one van, but the number of vehicles has increased with increasing awareness among people.

She said no academic data is available on the benefits of carpooling, although it's clear that it is good for the environment and for reducing congestion on the roads.

How to join a carpool

1. Check these websites on carpool:

2. Check your workplace to see if anyone comes from your town or neighbouring communities.

3. To start you own carpool, ask friends, family or post an ad on Craigslist

4. Match the schedule for all carpool sharers carefully


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