A week without wheels: Carpool

Mary got a ride Friday with Matt Kerkoff, a fellow WTHR employee
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Editor's note: In a week without wheels, Mary Milz gave up her car and tried biking, running and taking IndyGo to work. On the last day of her experiment, she got a ride with some seasoned carpoolers.

INDIANAPOLIS - I carpooled every day in high school. There were five girls and one parent going three miles to and from school. It was easy except when Cathy O'Grady brought her guitar or someone ran late. Then we all faced detention for being tardy.

I haven't carpooled since, not because I had a bad experience. I've just never had the opportunity, until Friday when I caught a ride with Matt Kerkoff and Andrew McGee. They both live in Boone County and carpool downtown two to three days a week. Though I was out of their way, they agreed to pick me up and tell me how and why they began ride sharing.

Matt, who works in production at WTHR, told me, "I see so many people driving to Indianapolis every day and thought, there has to be one person close to where I work."

He went to the Central Indiana Commuter Services (CICS) web site and registered with their carpool matching system. It matches people based on where they live and work, their schedules and other things, like whether they smoke. At last report, CICS had 1,985 carpoolers in their database. (They also encourage you to register if you bike, walk, take the bus or vanpool to work.)

Matt was hooked up with Andrew who just happens to live in the same subdivision. Andrew also works for CICS, which is in the Stutz Building, just two blocks from WTHR. While Andrew isn't required to carpool, he says it's easy and given his daily commute is 50 miles roundtrip, it just makes sense.

"Today is Matt's day to drive, the next time is mine. We take turns. That way we have less miles on our cars and we're saving on gas," he said.

"I'm not sure how much I save, but I can tell if there's a week where I don't carpool because I fill up sooner," said Matt.

Carpooling works for Matt and Andrew because they have similar schedules. They email at week's end to figure out what days to drive in together the following week.

Because they're registered, they do have a safety net. If they carpool together in the morning and one person becomes sick or suddenly can't drive the other person back, that person gets an emergency voucher for a free cab ride home.

In their two years of carpooling, Andrew's used it just once, and Matt, never.

I asked if there were concerns about being paired with a stranger - what if you were matched with someone you didn't like?

Matt laughed, saying, "You can do a trial, try it for a week and see if it works."

For them it has. They've become carpool friends.

"It gives you someone to talk to on the way in and on the way home," Matt says.

Andrew says CICS has noticed a "definite increase in carpooling with gas prices up again and I don't think they'll be any relief in the future... even a few days a week can help in the long run."

We drop Andrew off at the Stutz and arrive at WTHR at 8:54. I make it to the morning meeting with several minutes to spare, telling my colleagues that carpooling might be a good option for those unable to bike or take the bus to work. Having that database makes it easier to find others interested in ride-sharing.

For me the pros are that my commuting time is the same, it doesn't require any advance planning, nor do I have to get ready at work and it does save on gas and wear and tear. But with my schedule so unpredictable - sometimes I'm off at 6, other times 6:30 or 7, I'd never leave at the same time each day.

Otherwise, I'd be more than happy to share the driver's seat and the savings with someone else.

Central Indiana Commuter Services (CICS) web site