by Taylor Bendig
Fill those extra seats, and you’ll save some strain on the roads, the ice caps, and your wallet – that was the message of Regina's sixth annual Carpool Week challenge.
Sponsored by seven local partners including the University of Regina, the event -- running from Oct. 25 to 29 – encouraged residents to register online at carpool.ca and share rides to work or school, earning them a chance at prizes such as an iPod touch and Kindle e-reader.
Founded in Calgary in 2003, Carpool Week is a nationwide event that the City of Regina signed on with in 2005.
“The idea really grew out of the goal towards emission reduction,” explained Sheri Birkeland, the City's sustainability outreach coordinator, adding that carpooling “saves wear and tear on city streets” and “saves people money as well.”
According to Environment Canada, road transportation in Saskatchewan produced 7, 187 kilotons of greenhouse gasses in 2008 – up almost 1000 kilotons from two years earlier, and representing about 10.4 per cent of the provincial total. The statistics paint Saskatchewanians as unusually frequent drivers, with only 2.9 per cent of the country's population accounting for roughly 5.3 per cent of the its vehicle emissions.
Efforts to reduce those emissions have been growing, however: Birkeland said that Regina's Carpool Week has seen “steady growth for the last five years.” But she says carpooling shouldn't be limited to one week a year, adding that the City works to encourage it year-round.
Carpooling, however, isn’t the only way to save money and Co2 by changing your driving habits, according to John Klein. Klein is the president of the board of directors for the Regina Car Share Co-operative -- a group whose members share a collectively-owned car through an online booking system, splitting fuel and insurance costs as an alternative to owning their own vehicles.
The driving ideas behind carpooling and car-sharing are very much the same, says Klein.
“One of our objectives in the [co-operative] is to reduce the effect of climate change ... by changing the patterns of traffic in the city, which is each person in their own car, driving it as if there's no pollution coming out the tailpipe,” he said. “Long-term, it could literally change how we drive.”
Currently, Regina's year-old car share remains small, with about a dozen members sharing a single vehicle. Klein credits the program's slow start with “a lack of awareness in the transit options,” noting that many of the co-operative's members have lived in cities with better public transit and are used to driving only when busing, walking or biking aren’t possible.
Klein expects considerable growth once the idea catches on with Reginans, and has been promoting the concept to groups such as the U of R Students' Union. He says that while URSU has been receptive to the idea of car-sharing, no formal arrangements have been discussed.
URSU already maintains a 'ride board' on its website for the purpose of arranging carpools, but the board is currently devoid of activity.
Photo: Taylor Bendig. Regina's single-occupant driving style has lead to problems with parking congestion, demonstrated by this sea of cars in a U of R parking lot.