With the price of gasoline less than a dime away from last year’s high, University of South Dakota staff and faculty commuters are considering a cost-effective alternative carpooling.
Starting with a survey through USD Human Resources, HR staffer Linda Mattson said she sent out an email to the 1,200 faculty and staff members, and it was up to them to decide if they wanted to be involved in the carpooling initiative. Those interested provided their name and address within the one-week deadline, and HR pooled names together by location.
“There were not as many who responded as you would expect,” Mattson said. “Already within most departments, there is a lot of informal networking where people have already figured out transportation alternatives. There were less than 100 responses, and the majority came from staff members.”
Associate Earth Science and Physics Professor Brennan Jordan knows what it means to commute. With a 74-mile drive from his home to USD every morning and afternoon, Jordan said he has learned to view his drive as a relaxing time is his otherwise busy workday, though he concedes it can be inconvenient to spend two hours a day on the highway.
Though Jordan said he considers the carpooling a “green and cost-effective” proposal, he did not sign up for the carpools due to the fluctuation of his schedule as a faculty member.
“I have done a little of carpooling before with a lab instructor from Sioux Falls. It can save cost,” Jordan said. “If you wanted to work while someone else was driving, you could do that. It can be a nice social thing to spend some time chatting with a colleague. The negatives are, your schedule becomes locked to someone else’s. It is nice to have the flexibility to come and go. You also lose the private reflection time you can get on your own.”
While staff and faculty have the opportunity to negotiate carpools, students have yet been offered a program. Associate Dean of Student Life Phil Covington said if an initiative like this were to be done for students, it would likely have to go through the Student Government Association.
Sophomore Erik Muckey said while he thinks students should be given the option, it would bemore difficult for students to sync schedules compared to staff members with fixed hours.
“It is a good idea, but some students would want their freedom,” said Muckey. “ With the variety of each day’s schedule, I just think it would be difficult for students to rely on one another for rides.”
Junior Melissa Blackburn said the carpooling option would be a benefit to students like her roommate, who will be commuting from Sioux Falls almost twice a week.
“As college students, we don’t have much money as it is, let alone the gas money required to commute,” Blackburn said. “Carpooling should be an option, but students would have to be flexible to adjust their schedules to whomever they ride with.”
Dawn Kludt, secretary for University Housing, has been working at USD since Novermber, and she said she is in the process of setting up a carpool to assist in her daily 45-minute drive to and from Vermillion. Kludt said while she was already considering people to carpool with before the HR survey, it assisted in initiating an exchange with other staff members.
“The cost of gas increasing is usually at the back of my mind, and knowing I usually have to fill up twice a week, it makes carpooling attractive,” Kludt said. “The offset is, sometimes I have to stop for errands before or after work, which I wouldn’t necessarily have the freedom to do if I carpool. I probably will end up carpooling a few times a week, not every day, so I allow myself some flexibility.”
Reach reporter Megan Card at Megan.Card@usd.edu.