Southeastern launches carpool message board to help ease pain at the pump
Contact: Christina Chapple
Carpool message board
HAMMOND – With no end in sight to pain at the pump, Southeastern Louisiana University has taken another step to give its students, faculty and staff a break on the rising cost of driving by creating an online carpool message board.
The message board is a “one-stop shop” for connecting faculty, staff and students who want to find commuting partners.
The new service is getting started just as the university is ending its four-day summer work week. For seven weeks, June 23-Aug. 8, Southeastern closed most academic and business offices on Fridays, a move designed to impact commuting expenses for employees and energy expenses for the campus.
Southeastern Interim President John L. Crain said the university saved an estimated $85,000 by compressing the 40-hour work week into four days. Feedback indicates that faculty and staff also welcomed the resulting three-day weekends.
“We will continue to explore various options to provide employees with opportunities to economize and to save energy,” he said.
One of those opportunities is the carpool message board, available to the Southeastern community at www.selu.edu/carpool. An estimated 85 percent of Southeastern students commute to campus.
The online message board allows users to determine their own criteria for choosing a fellow commuter. Logging in with their university I.D. number, they can fill in their contact information, departure location, schedules, preferences on smoking, and any other conditions or comments.
Earlier this summer, Southeastern Human Resources Director Jessie Roberts took the initiative of creating a carpooling program for faculty and staff after getting calls from employees.
“They asked if we could tell them who else lived in their area, saying they were literally at the point where they couldn’t afford to keep working without carpooling, said Roberts. “It was that drastic.”
Although HR could not give out individual contact information for confidentiality reasons, Roberts volunteered her office to serve as a carpool “matchmaker.” HR agreed to coordinate a carpool service, gathering information and facilitating contact among interested employees. Approximately two dozen employees contacted Human Resources, with 18 eventually linking up in carpools. HR has now consolidated its program with the new message board, created by Web Coordinator Amber Layton, but Jan Ortego, HR training and development program coordinator, will continue monitoring the posts.
Southeastern physics professor David Norwood, who has commuted to campus from Baton Rouge for 11 years, teamed up with David Fox, who joined the Southeastern Channel staff as a photographer/editor three months ago.
“It’s the greatest thing since sliced bread,” Fox said of his carpooling experience. He and Norwood not only plan to continue splitting driving duties this fall, but are also using the message board to seek a third carpooling partner.
Prior to sharing a ride with Norwood, Fox said he had plenty of time on his solitary commute to fret over rising gas prices, calculating that his daily trip from Baton Rouge was costing him $17 a day. “It was killing me,” he said.
Fox posted signs around campus seeking a driving partner, but without any luck. “Then those nice people in HR sent out the e-mail about carpooling, so I called in,” he said. He and Norwood hooked up the next day. In addition to relishing saving gas money, Fox said he has also enjoyed making friends with Norwood.
“I didn’t know much about physics – which I admit I didn’t really like in high school – and he didn’t know much about TV,” he said, “so we explained ourselves all summer. It’s been great getting another perspective on things.”
“I hope we were able to help some folks initially,” Roberts said. “I’m sure the online message board will also help students, who are on a limited budget.”
Although it has only been briefly previewed in the university’s faculty/staff newsletter, a handful of students and employees have already posted messages and are looking forward to finding traveling partners.
“It was very easy to use,” said psychology major Rebekah Oalmann, who would welcome a rider to split driving duties between campus and Baton Rouge. “I believe a lot of students will be interested in the site for the sake of saving on gas.”
“I am hoping that the service will be more beneficial as we grow closer to the semester starting,” said graduate student Angela Pigford, who is looking for a fellow commuter from New Orleans.
The opportunity to carpool “is a huge thing, it means a lot to me,” Fox said. “The stress is completely gone. I can’t see one negative thing that’s come out of this. I might as well be flying to work, it’s so easy.
“I guarantee people will jump on this when they learn about the message board,” he said.