Topic Resources

Tools Used
Initiated By
  • Commuter Connections
  • Canadian Climate Change Action Fund (CCAF)
  • Universities and Colleges across Canada
  • 4000 individuals enrolled in active carpools by the end of the second year of the program

Multi-University Rideshare Project

The University Rideshare Project provides universities and colleges across Canada with the information, training, tools and encouragement needed to easily set up their own car pooling programs, free of charge.


A rideshare program is an organized effort to bring commuters together to form carpools. In 2000, Commuter Connections obtained funding from the Canadian Climate Change Action Fund (CCAF) to implement rideshare programs at 14 Canadian universities. The amount of funding offered by CCAF determined the number of universities that could participate. Commuter Connections selected participants based on needs assessment surveys sent to 80 different institutions (see "Getting Informed").

Setting Objectives


Getting Informed

Commuter Connections sent a needs assessment survey to 80 universities across the country to determine which schools were most needy and best suited to take part in the project. The surveys identified the following:

  • the schools demographics
  • the availability of carpool parking and associated costs
  • parking policies
  • commuting patterns
  • the level of interest and commitment the school showed with respect to implementing a rideshare program.

Delivering the Program

The project was implemented at the participating universities in September 2000 and ran until April of 2001. Each university was asked to appoint one to three rideshare coordinators to manage the program at their school. These coordinators were most often members of the parking department, but in some cases a student or student group was chosen to manage the program - the choice was left up to the school. The rideshare coordinators served as the local contact people, working with Commuter Connections to market and promote the program. They were also responsible for distributing carpool parking passes and other incentives, where applicable.

Commuter Connections invited the rideshare coordinators to a workshop in June, 2000 where they received training in the following:

  • marketing and promotion
  • parking management and traffic demand strategies
  • the Internet database software Easy Rider, which was developed for the University Rideshare Project. Its website, provides 24-hour access to ridesharing information for commuters at each institution.

Commuter Connections, with the support of CCAF, supplied each university with posters, bookmarks and marketing tips to help promote their programs . Such slogans as Why Drive Yourself Crazy, When You Can Carpool?, If you Cant Stand the Heat- Get Into a Carpool, and Carpool and Save! addressed the key reasons for ridesharing: the frustration of gridlock and not being able to find parking, climate change, and peoples desire to save money (Building Motivation Over Time; Financial Incentives; Vivid, Personalized Communications).

The universities promoted their rideshare programs using one or a combination of the following (Mass Media):

  • articles in campus newspapers
  • ongoing dates in faculty/staff newsletters
  • posters distributed across campus
  • emails to parking permit holders with information about ridesharing
  • bookmarks handed out or distributed in pay-stub envelopes or other mailings
  • promotional give-aways (e.g. coffee mugs with the website and slogans on them which also strengthened Norm Appeals)

The posters and bookmarks advertised the website and used slogans and cartoons to draw attention to the program and its purpose.

Easy Rider, a key component of the project, helped potential carpoolers connect with others to form regular carpools or to occasionally share rides. By logging on to the website, students and faculty could register to participate in the program. The website required registrants to enter basic information about their ridesharing needs, including:

  • their phone number
  • email address
  • home address
  • commuting destination
  • travel distance
  • arrival and departure times
  • whether they smoked, or preferred to only travel with one gender
  • whether they wished to drive or ride
  • additional comments

To protect peoples privacy, only the persons first name and last initial, preferences and either email or phone number were released to other potential carpoolers. After people had registered on the website, they gained access to the names and contact information of others with matching, or similar, ridesharing needs.

The carpool website also provided two on-line calculators, which allowed carpoolers to calculate their individual cost savings and CO2 savings.

Some of the universities supported the program by reserving choice parking spaces for carpoolers. In other cases registered carpools received parking passes at reduced rates (Financial Incentives). Commuter Connections believed the effort and commitment of the institutions themselves would determine how well and for how long the programs were destined to perform.

Financing the Program

The Climate Change Action Fund provided Commuter Connections with funding and support for the program. The entire budget follows:

Programming $70,000
Supplies, Equipment $70,000
Staff Salary (15 months, one person) $50,000
Workshops $20,000
Misc. (shipping, travel) $10,000
Office space, admin., etc. $30,000

Measuring Achievements

When participants registered on-line to join carpools, they were asked to record their usual mode of travel and distance traveled to school. Those who took cars to school were also asked for their vehicle type (e.g. economy, small, mid-sized etc.) This information was converted into distance reductions and associated greenhouse gas savings, based on data from the Pembina Institute.


Commuter Connections provided feedback to universities primarily via monthly newsletters. The newsletters offered encouragement, tips and news, and status reports for all the universities involved (Building Motivation Over Time). In addition, the Easy Rider software calculated the resulting reductions of CO2 emissions. These tools encouraged participants to stick with the program by showing them how their actions had made a difference.


Participation grew quickly in the projects second year. As of June 2001, there were 4,000 individuals enrolled in active carpools, up from about 1,000 at the beginning of April 2001. However, the initial start-up was somewhat slow.

The following outlines the status of each university involved in the project as of December 31, 2000.

University/College As of Sept 30, 2000 As of Oct 30 As of Nov 30 As of Dec 31 As of Mar 31, 2001
University of British Columbia, B.C. 54 74 89 100 1096
Simon Fraser U, B.C. 11 14 20 30 72
Univ. College of the Fraser Valley, B.C. 0 0 2 4 11
Langara College, B.C. 4 6 16 19 75
Okanagan Univ., B.C. 5 6 7 7 8
Royal Roads U., B.C. 14 16 18 17 18
Camosun College, B.C. 0 1 4 5 10
University of Victoria, BC 5 6 7 7 11
University of Calgary 8 15 18 22 485
University of Sask. 3 6 7 5 5
University of Toronto 28 38 49 52 64
Brock University, ON - 24 54 56 60
Queens U., ON. 0 3 4 10 16
Conestoga College, ON. 11 11 11 11 15
University of New Brunswick 17 16 17 17 18
University of Kings College, N.S. 0 0 0 0 1
Project Total 157 233 323 362 1965


Anne Marie Thornton
Director, Commuter Connections
Phone: 1 800 668 7433
Fax: 1 250 743 8000
Postal Address:
P.O. Box 192
Shawnigan Lake, B.C.
V0R 2W0

This case study was written by Wanda Baxter.

Funding for the addition of this case study was generously provided by the Government of Canada's Climate Change Action Fund, Suncor, Syncrude, Enbridge Consumers Gas and TetraPak Canada.



Lessons Learned

  • Rideshare programs are known to grow rather slowly at first. Success only comes through motivated organizers and co-operative institutions.
  • The most successful programs were those in which parking department employees acted as rideshare coordinators. The employee coordinators were more likely than student coordinators to demonstrate sustained commitment to the project, and were easy for participants to get in touch with to obtain passes and information. Student coordinators, who had diverse interests and who were not consistently available, were generally unable to offer long-term commitment.
  • Two of the fourteen universities involved pulled out of the program after Commuter Connections had already provided training and assistance. Because funding was limited, it may have been prudent to guarantee some kind of commitment to the project from the beginning.


The calculators appeared on the website as follows:

Cost Savings Calculator

Loan/financing cost (monthly) $ input
Insurance (monthly) $ input
Oil change (yearly) $ input
Maintenance costs (yearly) $ input
Fuel cost $ input
Parking $ input
TOTAL COST (annually) $0.00
Savings if carpooling with 1 other $0.00
Savings if carpooling with 2 others $0.00
Savings if carpooling with 3 others $0.00

CO2 Savings Calculator

Type of car driven

Daily travel distance 0 km
Total Daily CO2 Savings 0 kg

Last update: July 2004

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