Carpooling: The solution for parking problems?

Parking issues are nothing new. However, two Tech students are working on a new solution for the lack of parking spots on campus.

It is called the TTU Carpool Initiative, and the purpose is straightforward.

“Do you really care that your car gets to campus, or do you care that you get from where you live, to class on time and back on time? That’s all that really matters,” said TTU Carpool Initiative founder and civil engineering student Darryl Turner.

Turner is working on a way for students to carpool to class and, therefore, conserve parking spots.

“It started with me thinking that there are literally too many more cars than there are parking spots,” said Turner. “There are 5,600 commuter students for about 3,000 parking spots.”

To help with the technology side of the initiative, Turner reached out to a computer science student at Tech.

“Darryl contacted me about it a while back and I met with him and another colleague to discuss the idea,” said Maverick Peppers, lead developer for the TTU Carpool Initiative’s web service. “I'm interested in practical applications and creating services that are useful for everyday life, and Darryl's ride-sharing solution can solve the parking problem we have at TTU. So I told him I was down for the idea.”

Turner is not only looking for a change in the parking situation on campus, though. Through his research, Turner realized that there is another issue at hand that is possibly larger than too few parking spots.

“I sent out a survey and got about 150 results. I got some really good data to see what people thought about carpooling and one of the biggest things that stood out to me was that someone answered ‘my biggest issue is trust,’” said Turner.

Turner is looking to create a carpooling service, but he is also interested in sparking a change of mind for the students of Tech to diminish the trust issues students have with riding with new people.

“The reason that most carpools fail, we think, is that they go out to this huge group of people and just say ‘hey, look at these rides’, and you don’t know these people whatsoever. You can’t get trust through a computer screen,” said Turner. “There are actual psychological, sociological and even chemical aspects of trust that you can only get really in person.”

Turner’s solution to the problem of lack of trust is to organize events that will bring people interested in carpooling together to meet and hang out in person before actually getting into a car with each other.

“I had to really think about what the problem is, and that led me to getting right down to it. It’s an issue of trust and networking. If I can solve that I can solve a whole bunch of other things,” said Turner. “It’s the social aspect of it that’s the biggest challenge that we are trying to face.”

Turner and Peppers are still in the process of planning the first networking event for the carpool initiative. After the trust issue is addressed through the organized events, the actual carpooling will begin.

“Opening up new means for transportation will help students get to class. I've had friends text me they're skipping class because they couldn't find a decent parking spot. Who can blame that decision? I've done the same thing,” said Peppers. “Also, students will meet new people and make new friends which is a big influence on how well your college experience goes.”

Although, according to Turner, carpooling would help to alleviate the current parking problem, some students are not yet sold.

“I really like the idea of it and I like the motive behind it, but I think that it is a short-term Band-Aid and not a long-term solution to the parking problem,” said senior Emilee Gettys. “They are going to have to add parking or more students will have to start walking or biking to campus.”

Carpooling has many benefits, not just for those participating, Turner claims.

“We know this isn’t going to work for absolutely everyone, but it benefits everyone. If you have more people carpooling and your schedule is that truly unique, well congrats, we just alleviated the parking problem for you also,” said Turner. “It really benefits everyone.”

Turner and Peppers plan to make the carpooling initiative exclusively for students. The service will require a valid Tech I.D. number in order to ensure the safety of students carpooling.

Although this would be the first service of it’s kind for Tech, other universities have been utilizing carpooling for some time.

 “I’ve used the iPool service in the capitol district of New York. It reduces traffic time, pollution, cost and parking. It works wonderfully,” said Taylor Prince, sustainability student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York.

Turner and Peppers are confident that carpooling will work just as well for Tech.

“With the size of the city, the number of commuter students and campus scheduling, your trip is not nearly as unique as you think it is,” Turner said. “It’s like, ‘Hey, this guy lives two streets down from you, you already drive past him, he also has a 9 o’clock class, why don’t you just go ahead and ride together?’ That’s less competition for parking spots.”

Turner and Peppers hope to launch the initiative as soon as possible, and are in the process of planning the first event.

“We want to launch as soon as possible, but it is a community based thing,” said Turner. “Logistically, it’s perfect. It is just convincing people why it is.”

To anyone interested in helping with the parking issue on campus, Turner says this, “Let us tell you what we think, and we think you’ll agree.”

To stay up to date on the progress of the initiative, students can “like” the TTU Carpool Initiative page on Facebook.