Sunday, March 18 , 2018, 7:23 pm | Fair 54º


Commentary: How to Cut Gasoline Costs In Half — Or More

An easy way to improve the efficiency of a vehicle is by carpooling, and the two-month 'Commute Challenge' can get you started

Did you know that less than 1 percent of the energy in a vehicle’s gas tank goes to move the driver down the road and more than 99 percent is lost through inefficiencies or goes to move the car itself? 

Michael Chiacos
Michael Chiacos

There is a simple solution to our transportation needs that will save you money: Reduce our reliance on fossil fuels (and our deficit to unfriendly countries), cut congestion, fight climate change and air pollution, and build community, all without spending any money on new infrastructure.

The easiest way to double the efficiency of a vehicle is by putting another person in the car, so read on to learn about a new service already used by about 6,000 Santa Barbara County residents that quickly matches neighbors that work or travel to the same areas. Some of these carpoolers are saving more than $7,000 on gas and car expenses each year.

Register at and in a few minutes you will have a list of neighbors (no personal information is shared) who work near you, and perhaps also drop their children off at the same school, travel to the same place of worship or attend many of the same events.

Mikki Jee, a teacher at Montessori Center School, recently started carpooling with two other teachers from the Mesa to Goleta. At first she was a bit worried to lose the flexibility of afternoon work and errands, but she soon found that “I am now more efficient and get my work done faster, as I have to get out of work on time. I’m also only filling up my gas tank every 14 days, instead of every eight days before.”

In addition to saving money on gas, Jee is saving money on maintenance and tires, and her car will last a couple of years longer than it would if she was driving alone.

AAA estimates that driving costs about 71 cents per mile, which means Jee will save thousands of dollars each year by carpooling. She ride-shares three days a week and schedules errands or after-work exercise for the two days she drives alone. 

If you’re ready to give ride-sharing a try, now is a great time to start as Traffic Solutions (a division of the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments and the Countywide Rideshare Organization) is holding the “Commute Challenge” — a two-month friendly competition among employers with great prizes such as iPhones, iPods, gift certificates, Santa Barbara Axxess cards and more. The challenge starts Aug. 1. Enter a team of five with co-workers or friends, or join a team. You don’t even have to be a top team to win a prize, as some are randomly drawn.

In the Community Environmental Council’s recently completed “Transportation Energy Plan for Santa Barbara County,” we reviewed the various strategies, technologies, modes and other options for reducing fossil-fuel use in the transportation sector. We found ride-sharing to be the No. 1 early option solution.

Ride-sharing is promising because it doesn’t require additional infrastructure. Our roads are full of vehicles that are 80 percent empty (only one person). High gas prices, a desire to make environmental choices and technology-based ride-sharing that uses the Internet and cell phones for matches are ushering in a new era of easy ride-sharing.

School and event-based ride-sharing and using social networks to find matches can build community while saving energy and money. With 15 percent of commuters already ride-sharing in our county, th alternative mode can quickly scale up to have an even greater impact. 

Give ride-sharing a try. Even one day a week is a good start. If we all do our part, the traffic will be gone, your wallet will be heavier, the air will be cleaner, you’ll get to know your neighbors and you’ll cut down a bit on the $700 billion we send to foreign countries for oil every year.

— Michael Chiacos is a senior associate with the Community Environmental Council, specializing in transportation issues.

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