I left our house a few minutes last week. It was my first time to drive to work during the rush hour. I usually leave at five thirty to avoid the heavy traffic. But most of the time, I commute going to work (or don't go to work at all) especially when I cannot borrow a car from my family. Hurray to commuting! It's what the cool people do.
Overall, the traffic wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. But, what was supposed to be a 45-minute drive still took me two hours. However, it's still a blessing because it didn't take me three hours as I thought it would! Who am I to complain?
During the times when the traffic was moving very slowly, I observed the vehicles around me--front, back, side, above, and below. Nah, not really. There were still no flying cars above me and no submarine-cars below me. Okay, I made that up.
I noticed that 90% of the vehicles on the road were private vehicles (Warning: I'm not really good at estimating stuff.) and most of them had only one or two passengers, including the driver. Even I was alone!
Before the traffic got heavy, I also noticed a long line going to the train station. It was a bit disheartening to see. I wished I stopped and asked some people in the line who would like to carpool. I just didn't have the courage to ask. (Next time, I will really try my best to ask!)
That's when I thought of a way to at least make some improvements (and a positive contribution) to the worsening traffic situation: community carpooling. This will only improve it, not eliminate it completely. It will also be helpful to the people who commute going to work.
By the way, I know my idea isn't original and I know some communities are already doing it. In case this isn't new to you, that's okay. I'm happy for you.
How It Will Work
The community car pooling will work like this: residents of villages and/or subdivisions who have cars will volunteer to carpool to their place or area of work (say Makati or the Fort). Then, other residents who commute to the same place or area will join the carpool! He he. Smart explanation, huh? Nothing new about carpooling there.
The magic is in the details:
The community carpooling project will be the project of the homeowners associations. If your community's homeowners association is not active, like ours, you can initiate the project.
The homeowners association will spread the word about the project in the community. It will have two essential parts: a call for volunteers and a call to those who wish to join the carpool. It's up to each homeowners association how they will do this. They can do flyering, email blast, door-to-door, or however they want to do it.
The moment at least three to five volunteers sign up, the community can begin its carpooling.
The homeowners association will designate an area in the community where volunteers and passengers can wait and meet up. It will be like a public transportation terminal where passengers wait for the vehicles to arrive.
Each volunteer will clearly inform the passengers at the designated area where they work and where they will park their vehicles. It's better if they have signs made or printed out on sheets of paper. The passengers will just have to commute some more or walk a little to their place of work from the parking space. If the volunteer is willing, he or she can also drop the passengers where it would be convenient for them. But in general, the volunteer should still follow his or her usual route. Otherwise, it might become burdensome to him or her to volunteer and the project might become unsustainable.
To avoid waiting too long for passengers and to avoid passengers waiting for volunteers who may not show up, a fixed time for departure will be set. For example, the fixed time set is 5:30AM. At exactly 5:30AM, volunteers will leave the designated area and drive to his or her place of work whether the vehicle is full or not. Also, if there are no more volunteers in the designated area at the designated time, passengers should go ahead and commute to their place of work.
All volunteers should agree on the designated time to avoid confusion on their part and on the part of the passengers. It's a sacrifice everyone has to make in order for the project to work. Some has to wake up and go to their offices earlier!
I know you're curious about this one: payment. Will the volunteers be paid?
No. The volunteers cannot and should not require payment. That's why they are called volunteers. If they get paid, it will already be colorum (illegal). It will just be pure service of the volunteers for the country and for their fellowmen. This model is built on the innate goodness of people who want to help and to make a difference in their own ways. It will be their way of helping others and contributing to the country.
However, the passengers can give whatever amount they want to the volunteer to share in his costs. But, it will not be required. Again, this model is built on the assumption that people are kind, generous, and helpful. If given a chance, they will help others.
To protect the volunteers from fishy passengers, passengers should be checked for dangerous weapons and firearms at the designated area. Volunteers and their vehicles should be checked as well. Also, to ensure that everyone is a resident in the community, he or she should present an ID indicating that they indeed live in that community.
I know all the security checks seem like a huge hassle. But even with a single instance of crime, the whole model breaks down and we're back to square one--heavy traffic and too many vehicles on the road.
One of the most difficult parts of this project is going home. After all, people do not work in the same places or go home at the same time. To address these, the volunteers should set what time they will leave their respective parking spaces. It's up to the volunteers what time they will leave. Again, we don't want to burden the volunteers too much.
The volunteers should inform the passengers every morning what time they will leave. If passengers are at the parking spaces at the designated time, then they have a free ride home! Otherwise, they have to commute.
What if a volunteer suddenly needs to work overtime or go home earlier? If a passenger arrives at the parking space without the volunteer there, then the passenger has to go home by him or herself. Simple as that.
Time to Take Action and Make a Difference
That's the whole model of the community carpooling. I know it's not completely fool-proof. After all, I thought of it only while driving to work.
The important thing is to take action and just improve along the way.
Also, I know my suggestion is very optimistic, idealistic, or unrealistic. But without hoping for a brighter tomorrow and believing in the goodness of humanity, what will our future look like?
A word of caution though: Expect the first few days to be very tricky and frustrating. There will be very few volunteers and irritated passengers. Not everything will go according to how I wrote it. But, don't give up! The important thing is that you're doing something. Keep doing it a few times more and the whole process will definitely improve.
Finally, this is my crazy idea. This blog post is about trying to make a difference through writing. You can also share your own crazy ideas on the comments box below on how you think we can improve the traffic situation. More importantly, you can share your thoughts on how we can execute the idea. Planning without execution will not bring us anywhere.
If you or your community is already doing the community carpooling, you can send me your story (and some pictures) at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can update this blog post and feature your story and your community here!
I'm excited about this because it involves collective effort and sacrifice to make things better for the country and for everyone else. It's also about people being loving, caring, and helpful people.
Let's not just be residents of this country. Let us also be difference makers and World Changers in our own little ways!
Faith in humanity restored!
Image: Roberto Verzo via Flickr