|Dorothy O'Bara, Malcom Marler (driver) and Edwin Dixon carpool from Cullman as part of the UAB CommuteSmart program. The group is adding a fourth member to their carpool and hope to expand to take advantage of more CommuteSmart incentives.|
Malcolm Marler has researched it, crunched all the numbers, and it's not pretty.
If he were to drive by himself from his Cullman home to The 1917 Clinic every work day for a month he would spend an average of $1,010, according to the IRS' current reimbursement rate of 50.5 cents per mile for gas, maintenance, etc. Gas costs alone for the 100-mile daily commute would be $290.
"That's like pouring money down the drain," says Marler, chaplain at The 1917 Clinic at UAB.
That's why Marler has been carpooling with fellow employees Edwin Dixon of Facilities Management and Dorothy O'Bara in Nephrology as part of the UAB Employee CommuteSmart Program. CommuteSmart works with companies, organizations and institutions to develop tailored commute options programs that benefit them and their employees.
Marler's group - "The Dodge City/UAB Carpool Express" - has just added a fourth member, Tim Hardin in Biomedical & Clinical Engineering, and hopes to grow even larger so it can take advantage of other CommuteSmart incentives, including starting a vanpool supplied to the group to use daily. Monthly vanpool costs will be approximately $120 per person, save wear and tear on personal cars, reduce air pollution and save each member money on parking.
UAB also provides incentives for those who sign up to participate in the program, says Transportation Supervisor Bob Davis. Among the benefits are a reserved parking space for commuters with three or more riders, check-off passes that enable those who must drive to work separately an opportunity to do so once per month, and split costs for the parking place deducted before taxes evenly among the group.
"There are other incentives and rewards from CommuteSmart such as a cash award of up to $123 for the carpool and gas cards each quarter," Davis says. "Participants also are guaranteed a ride home in case of an emergency. We've actually had to take someone home as far away as Gadsden.
"CommuteSmart really is a great benefit for employees. All they have to do is form a three-person carpool and ride together three days a week to get started."
CommuteSmart aids arpoolers
Marler has been an employee at UAB since 1994 and moved to the Cullman-Smith Lake area six years ago. He contacted CommuteSmart to aid him in finding carpoolers three years ago as gas prices began climbing.
"They give you suggestions on how to get started, and when you have enough people and are ready to start a vanpool they will come to a meeting and help everybody understand how it will work," Marler says.
Marler has heard the reservations others have about carpooling - work schedules, what radio station will we listen to, will I like these people? - but says the nervousness has been unfounded for his group.
"What we've discovered, not only do we save money, but we've gotten to know and enjoy each other," Marler says. "It seems like our trip goes by in no time at all. Plus the stress level of getting to work is greatly reduced."
He says his group does have guidelines for everyone to follow and will keep them as they add to their numbers.
"You have to set clear boundaries; that's one of the keys to a carpool or vanpool working well," he says. "No smoking, leaving on time from both ends of your trip, cell phone guidelines. . . the key is just being respectful. It's not very complicated."
An organizational meeting for the new Dodge City to UAB vanpool, which has work hours of 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., is scheduled for Wednesday, May 21, from noon to 1 p.m. at the Community Care Building, located at 908 20th St. South. Interested members can enter through the 9th Avenue South entrance, or contact Marler at firstname.lastname@example.org or 975-8923.
Davis also wants faculty to remind students of the UAB Student Rideshare Program. It works in much the same fashion as the employee program, providing students a reserved parking spot and four emergency parking passes to use per academic term.
Pre-paid gas cards are available through CommuteSmart for students who participate in the program as long as they are registered with both CommuteSmart and UAB. For students to qualify, they must carpool at least two times per week.
"Both are really good programs," Davis says. "And we've got some people carpooling now who haven't taken advantage of this. It's something certainly worth doing."
To sign up for the CommuteSmart program or learn more, call 1-877-433-6282 ext. 4 or visit www.commutesmart.org/birmingham for details.