Less Car, More Life!

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Tompkins Weekly – February 14, 2011.  By Chrisophia Somerfeldt.

Whether you enjoy or avoid winter driving, love your car or don’t own one, driving less or differently can reduce your stress, save money, and even bring new people or fun into your life. Consider the following strategies, from the brand new, to the tried and true.

Let someone else drive

If winter roads leave you feeling wary, or weary, why not leave the driving to a professional? TCAT and other bus drivers are trained to handle diverse road conditions, and you can work, read or just relax along the way.

Share a ride! Introducing Zimride Tompkins

One of the easiest ways to cut the cost and boost the fun of your trips just got easier. Zimride Tompkins is a new, locally-tailored tool for finding friends, neighbors, or co-workers with whom to share rides. Post a ride request or offer—and preferences around smoking, talking, music, and more—and Zimride will inform you of potential matches.

Barbara Just got three matches soon after posting her commute from Homer. She chose one and says, “It’s working out real well. I pick up my rider in Cortland—she never liked driving much. She shares the costs, and it’s just nice to have the company!”


Consider a vanpool

If you commute a fair distance every day, you may want to consider a vanpool. Instead of sharing a private vehicle, a group of five to fourteen people share a reliable, comfortable van that lives at the home of the primary driver. The group decides on the hours, routes, and other policies of their vanpool.

If you have children

Another online resource, Divide the Ride (dividetheride.com), is designed specifically for parents and caregivers interested in carpooling. Safety is built-in, since you personally invite or are invited by people you know. Enter dates and drivers, and Divide the Ride will split up the driving and send reminder messages when it’s your turn to drive, and even look for a substitute driver when an unexpected conflict arises. You may even want to ask your child’s coach or activity leader to help get people signed up.


Drive smart

Here are still more ways take charge of your winter transportation:

1)    Skip a ride! By combining trips, trading favors with a neighbor, or just ‘making do,’ you can skip a trip all together. Or have a meeting via conference call or webinar and eliminate the hassle of driving and parking.

2)    Park and walk: Pull on some boots and a hat, park sooner and walk to the door, for a mood-boosting, calorie-burning burst of fresh air.

3)    Stop burning gas money: Avoid idling, and if you drive a modern, fuel-injected car, start moving 30 seconds or less after starting your engine, or after 60 seconds if it’s under 10 degrees out. Longer idling wastes gas and can even degrade the engine’s performance.

4)    Don’t Be Deflated. Colder weather can lower your tire pressure and gas mileage. Inflate tires monthly to the number in your owner’s manual, gas cap or door jamb.

Curb your car?

Depending on where you live, you may be able to save thousands of dollars a year by replacing your own car with the bus, an Ithaca Carshare membership, ridesharing, vanpooling, taxis, walking and/or bicycling. Ithaca Carshare even has a new Easy Access membership plan for those who qualify. Others have let go of personal car ownership and used the savings to pay off debt, travel or even buy a house!

Contact Way2Go

For more information on these strategies and more, contact Way2Go of Tompkins County Cooperative Extension at 277-2292. We can help you weigh your options and find ways to have “less car, more fun!”

Chrisophia Somerfeldt is the Program Manager of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County’s transportation education program, Way2Go. Explore your options at way2goinfo.org, or contact the Way2Go staff at 272-2292 or staff@way2goinfo.org.

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