Janet Crawford (left) and Linda Szych carpool to work.

Janet Crawford (left) and Linda Szych carpool to work.

High gas prices inspire healthy alternatives to driving

While the current gas price squeeze has created pain in people’s budgets, for some BGSU employees it has also led to healthier transportation options—from walking or biking to work to carpooling. A site on MyBGSU can help match up riders.

Linda Szych, in the College of Musical Arts, has revived her former habit of carpooling, thanks to some help from Stacie Enriquez, manager of Parking and Traffic. Szych lives in North Toledo, almost to Michigan, and the long commute was costing her heavily in gas.

“I called Stacie to see if there were people working at Bowling Green who were in or around my ZIP code,” Szych said. “She provided me with a list of email addresses, and I sent out messages to see if anyone was interested in carpooling.”

Janet Crawford in Career Services turned out to live a mile from her, and the duo has been sharing rides four days a week ever since. They have recently added a third person from their neighborhood, Leslie Galan from the bursar’s office, to their carpool.

Szych said the pleasures of having company are an added bonus to saving money on gas. “It’s really nice. When you drive alone, sometimes you get to work and wonder, ‘How did I get here?’” she said. “Now the time flies. We start talking as soon as we get in the car and we talk about everything,” she added.

Szych and Enriquez are former carpool mates from the days when both lived in Napoleon, and both strongly encourage others to take advantage of the benefits of ride sharing.

Those benefits extend beyond saving on gas, says Dr. Gary Silverman, chair of the environmental science department and Environmental Programs. “It’s better for the environment,” he noted.

Campus ‘Ride Board’
BGSU has its own ride-sharing finder on MyBGSU, according to Deb Wells, ITS customer relations manager and a carpooler herself. “In Blackboard, there is already a Ride Board available. It is lightly used, but that is probably because not many know it's there,” she said. To reach the Ride Board, log into MyBGSU, go to Blackboard and click on the Community tab. On the right side of the screen will be a list called Discussion Boards. Ride Board is the first on the list. Simply fill out your information and it will be posted there.

“If gas prices stay high or go even higher this fall, I think people will start to find other ways to get to work besides driving themselves,” Enriquez said. “Not only will it save them money but it would also help ease the congestion in our campus parking lots.”

Given people’s variable schedules, carpooling every day is not always possible, Szych acknowledged, but “even one day a week is better than nothing.”

A longtime carpool group from the Hamler/Deshler/McClure area comprises Rose Smith, ITS; Melody Drewes, College of Technology; Marsha Bostelman, biological sciences, and Amy West and Amy Prigge, both from marketing and communications. “We rotate drivers by the week,” West said. “If we need to drive separately one of those days, we just find someone to trade days with. You have to be flexible to make it work.”

Self-propelled transportation
For those lucky enough to live nearby, biking or walking to work is another good option. The University has some admirable role models in those areas—people who have been doing so since before the energy crunch.

Ellen Dalton, budget administrator in the College of Musical Arts, walks or bikes to work each day from her home on Clay Street in any weather, and has been known to turn down rides from friends driving by because she likes the exercise walking provides.

Her colleague Dr. Vincent Corrigan, music composition and theory, discovered the benefits of walking while on leave in the Netherlands last year, where he walked about an hour and a half each day in the course of getting around. “For me, with aging has come diabetes,” he said. “But when I got back from Holland, my blood sugar number was absolutely terrific.” That convinced him to take up the habit of walking to work, which has continued to help keep him healthy, he said. Although his wife, Ann, drives to work, he only rides with her in very bad weather and has filled his own car up with gas just once since March.

“Walking forces you to relax,” he observed. “It’s important to take a variety of routes to keep it fresh.”

Dr. James Evans, geology, who also walks from Dalton’s neighborhood, has long been a strong proponent of city and campus bike paths.

Bikers include Drs. Andrew Layden and John Laird, physics and astronomy. Layden and his wife have been able to get by with just one car. Drs. Paul Morris and Lee Rockett, biological sciences, also bike year ‘round.

Other regular bikers include Marc Brunner, design and construction, and Dr. Bob Midden, COSMOS director.

The dollar savings and the health (and weight) benefits of walking and biking may inspire people to continue their newfound mode of transportation even if gas prices go back down.

August 25, 2008