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HOV Lanes, Drains, and Automobiles: Carpool to Your Next Work Party

Posted by cwakenshaw at Jul 20, 2021 01:30 PM |

You don’t have to go it alone: consider carpooling to your next work party. Carpooling is a great way to cut down on congestion on the road and at the trailhead, curb emissions and build community.

WTA work parties are scheduled all over the state. Joining a work party can mean checking out a new part of the state, but sometimes that comes with a longer drive. Luckily, you don’t have to go it alone: consider carpooling to your next work party. Carpooling is a great way to cut down on congestion on the road and at the trailhead, curb emissions and build community.

A man walks through a crowded parking lot at the trailhead. Photo by Barbara B.
Park-and-rides should be this packed, not trailheads. Carpooling cuts down on congestion. Photo by Barbara B. 

If you're interested in trying out a carpool next time you sign up to volunteer, here are some tips to avoid common speed bumps to make carpooling fun, efficient and hassle-free.

meeting up

WTA makes finding fellow riders easy. When you sign up for a work party you can choose the carpool option, and you will be sent a list of others who did the same, including their names, email addresses, driver or passenger preference, and proposed meeting locations.  

From there, it’s up to you to reach out. Use that list to find someone who lives near you and send them an email. If you see multiple people in the same area, include them in a group message — the more the merrier!

Two backpacks lean against an empty car at the trailhead. Photo by Loren Drummond.
The average car has plenty of room for passengers and their gear. And you can skip the traffic by taking the HOV lane. Photo by Loren Drummond. 

Be friendly in your correspondence, propose a clear plan, and state your role in the carpool (driver or passenger). 

Keep the meetup location simple. Choose a public place that is central and easy to find; one where you can leave a car for the day. Grocery store parking lots are good. Park-and-rides are even better. And if it is a large parking lot, be clear about the exact location and provide some details about how to spot each other. Some negotiation around location is to be expected, but once you've decided on a plan, stick to it.

Next, nail down the timing. Plan to arrive a little early to the work party so everyone has time to get situated, usually 15 minutes early is plenty. When you're figuring out travel time, remember to allow a little extra time for late arrivals, bathroom stops and emergency donut stops.

Enjoy the Ride

Woohoo! The hard part’s over. You emailed, you coordinated, you planned, you packed the night before, you set your alarm a little early and you found your carpool compatriots. Now what?

A passenger looks at a mountian through a car window. Photo by Michelle Gephart.
As a passenger, familiar roads take on new life when you can appreciate the views. Photo by Michelle Gephart. 

Be respectful and communicative and your drive will be a breeze! The driver can put their passengers at ease by giving them the lay of the land, “Throw your pack here, put your coffee there...” Check in with your passengers about whether anyone needs the front seat to allay motion sickness. 

Once you're on the way, check in about temperature preferences and music selection. Passengers, ask the driver before eating or drinking in their car. You can even offer some snacks if everyone's okay with it.

You can use the drive to chat and get to know each other. You may find you and your cohort share a love of avant-garde jazz and cheese puffs.

The back of a station wagon is packed to the ceiling with hiking gear. Photo by Joe Curiel.
Gear can take up a lot of space! Be sure to make room in your car before meeting up with your fellow carpoolers. Photo by Joe Curiel. 

The driver’s responsibility is to get to the trailhead, but the passenger can do their part. Help the driver navigate by printing the driving directions that WTA provides or saving them to your phone. This is especially helpful if you lose cell service.

Whether you have a lead foot or obey every obscure traffic law when you drive alone, be sure to drive safely in a car pool to put your sidekicks at ease. Before you know it you’ll be at the trailhead ready to dig in to some trail work.

The Return Journey

Trail work is a chance to get absolutely filthy. Sometimes, your driver doesn’t care how dirty their car gets. But it's always nice to come prepared just in case it's a dirtier day than you expected.

A trail work volunteer works in the mud. Photo by Emma Cassidy.
When you've been working in the mud all day, a few simple steps will keep your car clean. Photo by Emma Cassidy. 

Help keep your driver's car clean by bringing a towel to sit on or a change of clothes, and a containment device for muddy rain gear and boots (a plastic bag works wonders). A tray or mat in the back of your car is another great way to store such things. 

Now that you’ve avoided the faux pas of smearing a slurry of mud across the brilliant white upholstery of your new acquaintance's car, and the hum of the road is setting in, you might realize just how tired you are.

Hiking boots on a truck's tailgate. Photo by Paul Kriloff.
Store your dirty hiking boots in the back of the car for the ride home. Photo by Paul Kriloff. 

No need to rise to the lively conversation of the morning when the coffee was flowing. You can simply sit quietly and think back on the day or you can put some music on or chat about what’s for dinner. You’ll be pulling into the park-and-ride in no time with an amplified sense of accomplishment; you excelled on the road and the trail. 

If you're the passenger, now is a great time to offer to drive next time or offer some gas money. And then it’s time to part ways, but before you do, be sure to get all your stuff out of the car, including any trash from car snacks or drinks.

And if you get a lonely feeling when you get back in your car to drive home, remember, there’s sure to be a willing carpool comrade on your next work party!

A man is having a great time driving a car on a sunny day.
Driving to the trailhead is way more fun with company. Photo by Derek Bye.