Car-pooling can make life easier and reduce burden on the environment

Maria leaves her apartment on the Lycabettus ring road around 8 a.m. and drives to Kolonaki, where she picks up her colleague Nikos, and then goes to on to Exarchia, where Lila, another colleague, is waiting for them on the corner of Solonos Street. They all arrive at the office where they work in Faliron by 9 a.m. They made this informal arrangement one day at work during their lunch break. «Since we live near each other, why waste money on gasoline?» Maria said. «Besides, we’ll have company.» So, except for rare occasions, they have all gone to and from work together for the past few months. Sometimes Nikos drives and more rarely Lila, who is less accustomed to driving. Global fashion They might not know it, but they have created a car pool, an arrangement that not only makes the repetitive trip to work more enjoyable, but also cuts expenses for fuel and parking because the car poolers share them. Car-pooling helps to reduce traffic and its resulting exhaust fumes, lowering air pollution levels better than any government policy has managed to. In some countries, firms like NuRide undertake to bring aspiring car-poolers together. So far in Greece, our love of cars has held us back from such initiatives, but the time to embrace them is now. After all, those who work downtown can only use their cars every other day, due to the traffic ring regulation that allows cars with license plates ending in odd and even numbers to circulate on alternate days. Infringements are subject to heavy fines. Moreover, no matter what measures are taken, air pollution continues to be a grave problem. The main culprits are automobiles, which are responsible for 62 percent of hydrocarbon emissions, 63 percent of nitrogen oxide emissions, and 80 percent of carbon monoxide emissions. Each car emits 40 times more pollutants per passenger than a bus. And cars no longer offer the convenience they once did. During rush hour in downtown Athens, traffic moves no faster than 5 kilometers per hour, or walking pace. This is because Greece has more than 400 vehicles per 1,000 residents, one of the highest numbers in the European Union, while there is a very low number of passengers (1.2 per vehicle). Designated lanes However, the notion of special traffic lanes designated for cars carrying two or more passengers, which has been implemented in 20 states in the USA, still seems like science fiction by Greek standards. Yet it has been shown that a normal traffic lane serves 21 percent of cars but only 18 percent of passengers, while a lane designated for cars with two or more passengers serves 16 percent of vehicles but 27 percent of passengers on the entire road.