The Daily Commute: How to Save Time, Save Money, and Save Your Sanity

Ride sharing isn't just about saving money, but also about enjoying sweet carpooler perks -- special high occupancy vehicle lanes, primo parking spaces, even free oil changes.

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McMillan Digital Art via Getty Images

Today’s new-fangled cars generally have room for more than one person. So why not ease the burdens of commuting with good old-fashioned carpooling—a.k.a. ride sharing, a.k.a. slugging. Carpooling’s popularity rises with the price of gasoline, so it’s pretty darn popular lately, and with the web and social media, it’s never been easier to find a ride. But ride sharing isn’t just about saving money and lowering one’s carbon footprint. It’s also about enjoying sweet carpooler perks—both on the road (special high occupancy vehicle lanes) and at the office (primo parking spaces, even free oil changes).

It’s debatable just how much consumer behavior is changed by higher gas prices. But the Boston Globe reports that enrollment in the Massachusetts carpooling program—which hooks up commuters to share rides—has tripled since March. (The program only launched in January, but still.) Meanwhile, traffic in the HOV lanes of Boston’s I-93, which require at least two people in a car, has steadily risen from 7,600 vehicles in April 2009, to 8,700 in April 2010, to 9,700 in April 2011.

The fact that gas prices have been hovering around $4 a gallon surely has caused plenty of commuters to pair up. But the perks provided by businesses to encourage employees to carpool don’t hurt. Gillette, for instance, allows carpoolers to park in specially reserved spots that are painted green (like environmentally friendly, get it?) and super close to its South Boston headquarters. Some universities encourage carpooling by offering ride-sharers cheaper parking ($50 a month for a spot that normally runs $500), and other employers entice workers to carpool by waving Dunkin Donuts gift cards and free oil changes as rewards. [time-link title=”(Check out TIME’s 20 Best and Worst Cities for Public Transit)” url=,28804,2070992_2071052_2070981,00.html]

Commuters in the Washington, D.C., area show just how easy it is to find someone to carpool with. Carpoolers don’t have to work together, or even know each other before sharing a ride. Throughout D.C. and northern Virginia, people line up waiting to “slug” rides. The spots for ride pickups are listed at a website,, and then the “slugs” (freeloaders, err, people on foot) wait their turn and hop in vehicles heading their way.

Not many cars stop for hitchhikers nowadays, so why would a driver pick up some random person on the commute to work? Slugging won’t save money for the driver, but it does save the driver time since the D.C. area has special highway lanes for use only by cars with at least three people inside. A story at CNN tells the stories of a few slugs and slug-chauffeurs.

The slug site also has a slugging calculator that does the math to show how much a slug can save by being a slug rather than driving to work solo: A 30-mile commute, for instance, adds up to roughly $400 a month, nearly $5,000 a year.

Other regions of the country have their own websites for ride-share hookups, and there are national resources such as eRideShare and ZimRide. Pool up! [time-link title=”(Wanna save on gas? You’ll spend less just by doing less behind the wheel)” url=]