Berkeley Lab

Staffer Shares Her Joy of Carpooling in New ‘Commuter Chronicles’ Series

This Q&A with Vehicle Access and Alternative Transportation Advisory Group (VAATAG) member Patricia Jung launches the Commuter Chronicles — a new series about Lab employees who have decided to carpool, vanpool, or bike instead of driving alone to work. Alternative modes of transportation will be important to consider as the Lab prepares for the Integrative Genomics Building groundbreaking, and the subsequent loss of over 300 parking spaces, this summer.

Was Jung’s transition to ridesharing difficult? Did she feel locked in by a seemingly rigid schedule? How can you rideshare if you have children? Can ridesharing improve your quality of life? We hope to answer those questions plus more in the Commuter Chronicles.

Patricia Jung (right) with her carpool partners Curt Oldenburg (left) and Cynthia Ladd-Viti

Patricia Jung (right) with her carpool partners Curt Oldenburg (left) and Cynthia Ladd-Viti

Patricia Jung of Chemical Sciences used to commute alone from San Rafael to Berkeley. She didn’t like the stress of driving in traffic, so one day she tried out carpooling, and has never looked back. “I really appreciate having the extra energy to devote to my family after work,” says Jung.

When did you start to carpool?

I drove myself to the Lab for two months when I first started working here two years ago. But driving myself from San Rafael to Berkeley and back was really a chore and zapped my energy. If I left work after 5 p.m., I would hit traffic on my way home. Although I really liked my new job at the Lab, I knew I needed to change the way I commute, so I started to look into other options, like carpooling.

How has carpooling made your life better?

When I was driving alone, I always felt exhausted. Although carpooling is an hour each way and makes my commute time longer than driving alone, I have more energy at work and at home, and my commute is no longer stressful. Even if I’m the one who’s driving, I find that I have extra energy for my family when I get home, or when I’m heading to work.

Another benefit is that my two carpool partners and I have become friends over the years. My commute is more like a social hour. During our commute, we talk about everything, especially current events and politics. And because I’m sharing the ride with other people, I feel better about my impact on the environment. Carpooling is a great way to decompress and be ready for the next item on the schedule!

What else makes your carpool ride special?

We have something called “driver’s choice,” where the driver gets to choose what we listen to, whether it’s music, a Podcast, or NPR, but we try to be considerate and play what everyone will like.

How did you find your carpool partners?

I found my carpool group through Zimride. One carpool partner works at the Lab, and the other one works at UC. Zimride matches your commute departure and arrival time and the city locations to others in their database.

Do you and your carpool partners take turns driving?

Yes, we alternate. I usually drive the carpool twice a week at the most. We’re on the honor system and don’t exchange money for gas or bridge tolls.

What challenges did you run into when you first started to carpool? How did you resolve them?

One of my biggest concerns was whether I could hold to a schedule, and that I would always be late, but I was able to make the transition, and the carpool has actually helped me manage my time better. Each of us in the carpool understands that we all need some flexibility, so we give each other a heads-up if we need to get in early, are running a few minutes late, or have an appointment. I am able to carpool with one other person about 90% of the time.

What advice would you give to someone new to carpooling?

Just give it a try. Go in there with an open mind, and tell yourself it’s not a long-term commitment. See how it goes for a week. It could work out in your favor.

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— By Theresa Duque