Commuter Cafe

Among the many efforts of UCLA Transportation is a goal to increase the number of carpoolers at UCLA.  Some time ago the idea for a Commuter Cafe was born and it quickly developed into a successful event. The ultimate goal, as always, is to reduce the daily single-occupancy trips to/from the UCLA, thus reducing air pollution and traffic congestion.  I was lucky enough to conduct an interview via facebook-chat with Jumy Rollins who helps conduct the Commuter Cafe outreach sessions on campus.  So without further adieu, here’s the interview with Jumy(which by the way is a BeAGreenCommuter.com’s first official interview piece) …

Brent (BeAGreenCommuter): So Jumy, can you give us a brief introduction of who you are and what you do?

Jumy: My name is Jumy Rollins and I have been employed here at UCLA Transportation for about 18 months.  I am an Alternative Transportation Coordinator.  I work closely with the UCLA Vanpool program and the Commuter Cafe Carpool Program.  I am also responsible for many of the incentive programs for using alternative transportation.

B: Great, so for those who don’t yet know, what is Commuter Cafe?

J: Commuter Cafe is UCLA’s way to personally match people who are interested in carpooling.

B: Kind of like speed-dating for carpools, right?

J: Yeah, speed carpool-matching.  We were finding that it was difficult to find carpool matches without the people meeting first, so Commuter Cafe is the way we can bring people together so they can meet and talk and then form carpools in a safe environment.

B: So how many Commuter Cafe events have you hosted thus far?

J: We have hosted a total of 4 events. Each event had quite a number of sessions. We began by hosting a Commuter Cafe for [targeted] single rider permit holders from the south bay area. Eventually we opened the sessions up to all areas,  gave a short presentation, and then grouped the participants by what city they resided in and went from there. Our most successful commuter cafe so far was from the UCLA Anderson School.

B: Approximately how many carpools have you formed through Commuter Cafe?

J: Approximately 50

B: Wow, that’s at least 100 people.  Probably more.  You said that forming carpools is traditionally a hard task.  What are the other ways in which carpools are formed?  And what is the advantage of Commuter Cafe?

J: Here at UCLA we have 2 online carpool-matching programs. First is Carpoolworld.com, where you can register online for free and get information about people who want to carpool to and from UCLA. the other is the Zimride application on Facebook [zimride.com].

Carpoolworld works well with staff and faculty who have a set schedule.  And Zimride works great among the student population who sometimes just need a one time ride; however, the advantage of UCLA’s Commuter Cafe is instead of communicating online you can meet face-to-face and get past that trust issues that many of the first time carpoolers seem to have. And you would be able to discuss all of the details about carpooling such as who drives when, where the pick-up point will be, schedules, how much to pay your partners for fuel, and so on.

Plus, you never know who you will run into. You may see someone you already know making it even easier to trust them.

B: You mentioned some of the logistical worries that carpoolers seem to have.  What are the best general motivators/benefits for people to join a carpool versus driving alone to campus?

J: The best benefit for carpooling is that you can save a lot of money. Not only on the permit fees but on fuel costs, car maintenance, and even some insurance companies give you discounts if you carpool. You also save time because you can utilize the carpool lanes. By carpooling you are helping out the environment, maintaining cleaner air, and causing less traffic congestion.

The more people in your carpool, the lower your permit fees [overall and individual] are and the more people you have to help pay for gas. It’s definitely a win-win situation.  Also, if you carpool to UCLA, the University gives you free membership and 8 free hours per month use of the Zipcar program. We have a great car-sharing programs here.

B: Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about carpooling or ridesharing in general?

J: Just that, it’s easier than you think. I would suggest that everyone try out alternative forms of transportation.  We have so many transit systems that come through UCLA and we have a great Vanpool program.  It really helps alleviate the stress from sitting in traffic all day.

B: Thank you for your time, Jumy.  Can we give you email in case anyone has more questions about Commuter Cafe?

J: No problem.  And of course.  I can be reached at jrollins@ts.ucla.edu.