For many of the WashU staff and faculty members who live far from campus, commuting by car is a challenge: it takes time, costs money and can be stressful when it comes to getting a parking space, not to mention the environmental impact! Carpooling, which has numerous benefits for both drivers and passengers, addresses many of these challenges. By sharing a vehicle, carpoolers divide their costs of travel and parking and car maintenance, while multiplying their chances to access a good parking space.
To demonstrate support to this win-win transportation solution, WashU established the Bearly Drivers Carpool program, which offers many more benefits to innovative commuters:
- Access to reduced permit costs;
- 1 FREE daily permit per month for non-primary drivers;
- Designated parking spaces that are available only to Bearly Drivers members;
- Optional enrollment in Guaranteed Ride Home program.
Assistant Director for Student Financial Services James McDonald has been a part of the Bearly Drivers program for the past four years along with his driving partner, Kaslina Love Mosley. Mackenzie Hines-Wilson, communications intern at the Office of Sustainability, spoke with James about his commuting experience.
How did you get involved with Bearly Drivers?
I randomly ran into Kaslina and we figured out that we both live in North County which is about 20 miles away from the Danforth Campus. So, we picked a spot to meet in the morning and use the Bearly Drivers program for access to discounted parking. It works pretty well!
If you have an appointment or a family emergency, what do you and Mosley typically do since you carpool?
So far, I haven’t had that situation because my schedule’s usually planned out. But if it does happen, we are aware of other alternative transportation options. For instance, we may switch our meeting spot and meet at the North Hanley Metrolink Station, so I can take the train back home. I’ve also parked at the West Campus lot twice this summer to try it out, and I think that would work if we had to use that option. In case of an emergency, there’s also the Guaranteed Ride Home Program; Kaslina has used it and it worked out fine!
Do you have a story of something that happened on your commute that made it more interesting?
One day, we were rushing to meet each other at the Hanley Metrolink Station and we both avoided an accident on our way there, so that’s when we both decided we were going to change up where we met. We then started meeting at the intersection of Highway 270 and North Hanley.
In North County, there are a couple of traffic lights that may cause you to have to wait about three or four light changes before you can actually get through the light. By changing our meeting spot, we were able to avoid these lights and that actually cut a few minutes off of our commute.
Would you recommend your way of commuting to the WashU community?
There could be a lot more Bearly Drivers at WashU, and I think people would really enjoy it just by making a friend, or learning about different departments in the University that aren’t on their usual path. For example, I work in Student and Financial Services and Kaslina works for PARC (Photosynthetic Antenna Research Center). Our shared commute allows us to chat and learn about new things, which is always interesting! Compiling a map of the zip codes where WashU employees are concentrated would shed a light on the areas where strong matches are likely which could potentially increase interest and participation in the Bearly Drivers program.
What do you love most about your commuting plan?
Every week we switch off who drives, saving us wear and tear on our vehicles. It’s also relieving to know that for one whole week you don’t have to be the one putting up with the traffic. Both Kaslina and I actually noticed that it helps with our days. Either putting us in a better mood or relieving us from stress because we can talk and laugh on our commute; things you wouldn’t normally do if you were driving by yourself!
For more information about the Bearly Drivers Carpool program, including program eligibility, the Guaranteed Ride Home program, and how to enroll, click here. We are seeking happy alternative transportation commuters to share their story. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to be featured in a future profile and inspire others to rethink their own commute!