Why carpooling is losing popularity in New Jersey
Carpooling used to be all the rage in the Garden State, but these days a growing number of commuters are traveling to and from work alone in their cars.
Data from the latest Census American Community Survey show 19.7 percent of commuters used a carpool in 1980, but that number has been steadily declining, and is now at about 9.4 percent nationally.
In New Jersey, Census data shows that between 2009 and 2013, 346,706 people in New Jersey carpooled each day to work, which is about 9 percent of commuters.
So why is carpooling becoming less and less popular?
According to Tracy Noble, the lead spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic, one major reason is the price of gas.
"Several years ago when we had gas prices in the $4 per gallon range, people were looking for alternatives to doing their commute alone, to save money, and carpooling was at the top of the list," she said. "But now that prices are in that $2.20 range per gallon, people are tending to go to work alone."
She said another factor is convenience.
"Unless you are in a neighborhood where several of your neighbors are commuting into the same office park or same building, it might not be as convenient as it might sound to try to carpool, and people's lives are very complex these days -- children have very busy schedules, so a lot of parents don't necessarily go straight home from the office," Noble said.
At the same time, Noble said a lot of people may not be working what used to be considered normal business hours at the office.
"Some people may need to run errands on their way home from work, which is also difficult to do when you've got a carload of people that just want to go home," she said. "With so much going on these days it's not always easy to coordinate with other people in the area to keep on that same schedule."
While New Jersey does have an extensive mass transit system, Noble believes a significant number of commuters would rather be in their cars alone, than waiting for a bus or a train.
"In recent months we've seen heavy delays on the New Jersey Transit side of things, and people may not be finding it as reliable a means of transportation as they used to. If you've got deadlines to meet and meetings to get to you need to know that you will be able to get to your place of business on time, and that might be driving people back onto the roadways," Noble said.
She also said with our deteriorating infrastructure and need for transportation funding, the decline in carpooling is definitely not a positive trend.
"People like the convenience that vehicles provide, they like the ability to know that they're not relying on somebody else's timetable, they can simply leave when they need to," she said.