October designated carpool month

More Red Deer and area commuters are taking a greener approach and piling in when it comes to getting around.

More Red Deer and area commuters are taking a greener approach and piling in when it comes to getting around.

Red Deer and 13 other Western Canada communities have teamed up with carpool.ca to celebrate October as the official carpool month.

More than 240 people in Red Deer have registered with the website, an easy-to-use online system that matches users with existing carpools based on specific to and from locations or entire routes.

The website can also be used as a tool to start a new carpool.

That number represents a decent increase compared to September 2012, when only 41 commuters were signed up, said Jonathan Sealey, a traffic analysis technologist with the City of Red Deer.

This is the second year the city has joined carpool.ca for a pilot project to benefit the environment by creating fewer emissions, easing traffic congestion and saving commuters money.

“The first year we aimed for about 100 participants and after carpool week in 2012, we had around that. This time we’re aiming for 350 before the end of 2013,” Sealey said.

“It seems to be trending in a positive direction. We’re happy with the uptake … I know it’s hard here with the number of trucks we see in the city and based on the type of work people do but I think we compare well to Lethbridge and Fort McMurray.”

As of May 2013, Calgary had a total of 2,823 registrants with carpool.ca, followed by Edmonton with 1,015 and Red Deer with 219. Fort McMurray had 97 and Lethbridge had 104.

“In Calgary, there is a high demand for parking, not to mention there is the difference in population,” Sealey said when comparing the numbers.

Updated numbers for each Alberta city will be revealed in November.

“It’s convenient. I carpool every day and it’s a lot nicer to have someone in the vehicle to talk to, even if it’s only 10 minutes,” Sealey said.

“You don’t need to carpool every day of the week to save money. Even one day a week can save up to 10 per cent of your daily commuting costs. … It costs about $25 a day to own a vehicle.”

Over a dozen local businesses have joined the program and that’s also an increase compared to last year, when there was about half of that, Sealey said. These include businesses from Red Deer, Blackfalds, Lacombe, Innisfail and Sylvan Lake — communities that are also on board with the carpool month initiative.

Carpool.ca started in 2000 and boasts about 8,000 users — 5,000 from Alberta. It has been running in Calgary for 10 years and is largely based in Western Canada. However, it also has a few programs running in Ontario, said Anne Marie Thornton, carpool.ca’s director.

“Our database is constantly evolving. People are leaving while others are joining. In total, we’ve had over 50,000 use the site,” Thornton said.

“If everyone carpooled just once a week, that would be 20 per cent less cars on the road so the impact is great and the commitment can be small.”

The free online tool allows users to screen their carpool matches based on preferences such as non-smoking. Women can also screen to be matched with only other women.

The carpooling pilot project with the online program wraps up at the end of 2014. It will then most likely go before city council, which will decided if it can fit into the budget, Sealey said.

“They’ll decide what to do with it but we’re hoping it continues. It’s a feel-good initiative,” he said.

To register for carpooling and for a chance to win prizes such as free fuel cards before the end of the month, visit carpool.ca.