This story originally appeared in UCLA Today, a discontinued publication.

UCLA's roadway recruiter coaxes commuters to carpool

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Jumy Rollins wants to save the planet, one commuter at a time.

Her mission begins with being green. At home in Lomita, she and her husband cultivate an organic garden, use a composter and are fervent recyclers.

“I’m really big on trying to help the environment,” Rollins said. “I want to make the littlest carbon footprint I can.”jumy

Rollins puts her green principles into practice at work. As an alternate-transportation coordinator for UCLA Transportation and Parking Services, she pursues the task of converting faculty, staff and students who commute to work alone in their cars into carpoolers. Of the approximate 25,000 commuter parking permits issued across campus, only 833 of them are carpool permits.

A former retail manager for Banana Republic stores in the South Bay, Rollins draws upon her sales and customer service skills to make the point that carpooling helps protect the environment while also saving commuters times and money.

Time-wise, carpoolers can use freeway carpool lanes to bypass time-consuming congestion. The 405, for example, has a carpool lane from the South Bay to Culver City, and an extension from Culver City to UCLA is currently under construction.

“Even if you save just 20 minutes each way, that’s almost an hour of time every day,” Rollins likes to point out.

Money-wise, an annual yellow parking permit for faculty and staff members costs $756. That cost goes down to $624 per person for two-person carpools, and $396 per person for 3-person carpools. Add to that savings on gas and car maintenance.

Carpooling also cuts down on stress. “If you’re not doing the driving, you can have your quiet time, read and relax,” Rollins said.

While getting commuters interested in carpools isn’t a tough sell, Rollins said, making carpools actually happen is more of a challenge. That’s because it takes a close matching of work and driving schedules, geographic location and other factors to make a carpool click.

Rollins’ department recently instituted two online services to help potential carpoolers connect: http://www.zimride.com/ is a Facebook application used primarily by students for short-term or one-time shared trips. For longer-term arrangements, staff and faculty are invited to use http://www.carpoolworld.com/. After registering and listing information on the area you live in and your schedule, you will automatically receive referrals to other staff and faculty also seeking carpool partners.

To partner people even more directly, Transportation hosts Commuter Caf, an event inviting potential carpoolers who live in the same general area to meet each other one-on-one.

“There’s a trust factor that needs to be built,” Rollins said. Even when carpool word comes up with promising referrals, she said, people are reluctant to call each other up and say, "Okay, let’s carpool.”

Rollins led the first Commuter Caf this past March in a meeting room at the Los Angeles Tennis Center. About two dozen single-driver commuters from the South Bay — areas like Palos Verdes, Torrance and Manhattan Beach, but also as far south as Long Beach — were invited. They shared their favorite “commuter horror story,” learned what Transportation has to offer carpoolers and finally networked with each other. A map conveniently identified the approximate locations where commuters at the meeting lived.

“We feel it was really successful because a lot of people who showed up were really interested in carpooling,” Rollins said. Unfortunately, she added, only two people who attended have so far gone on to carpool, because match-up factors for others didn’t quite sync up.

Plans are nevertheless under way for a second Commuter Caf, this one for commuters from the Pasadena, Glendale, Burbank and West Valley areas, with a selection of May 20 or June 11 meeting dates. There will also be a departmental Commuter Caf for the Anderson School.

Rollins herself said she wouldn’t be working at UCLA if it weren’t for alternative transportation – in her case, a vanpool.

“There’s no way I would want to drive up here by myself on the 405 every single day,” she said. “I don’t even like to drive. I would love to just be the passenger all the time.”

To contact Rollins, e-mail or call (310) 267-2093. For information about carpooling and other alternative transportation options, see the Transportation Department’s website.
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