Carpooling is often cited as an effective way to unlock gridlock, but despite its benefits only about seven to 10 per cent of drivers in the Greater Toronto Area choose to carpool.

As part of CBC’s ongoing series Stuck In Traffic, CBC’s Mary Wiens took a ride with two women who’ve managed to make carpooling work for them.

Karina Thompson and Danielle Spinello work together as booking agents at Jonview Canada, a travel services company.

This week CBC Toronto focuses on traffic and looks for solutions to our increasing gridlock. Listen to Metro Morning, and watch CBC News Toronto for stories from Mary Wiens and Steve D'Souza.

Thompson’s job is to help book trips for her clients, but the trip she hated most was the daily stop-and-go drive to Jonview’s office in Mississauga’s West Mall. It’s a place so unreachable by bus that only three per cent of Jonview’s workers use public transit to get to work.  

"Sometimes you have such a stressful ride, you’re stressed before you even come to work because traffic’s so bad," said Thompson.

Carpool match up

Thompson and Spinello didn’t connect until they were matched up through a ride-matching program run by Metrolinx called Carpool Zone. They’ve been carpool buddies for six months.

'We always have a good time in the morning.I think we laugh about our partners, about what happened the night before'—Karina Thompson

Members enter details about their commute and the database returns with matches of people in their building or a nearby location who are either driving or looking for a ride.  

Both women agree that taking on the commute together helps ease their stress.

"We always have a good time in the morning," said Thompson. "I think we laugh about our partners, about what happened the night before."

There is also cost savings.

"Whenever she needs to fill up, I’ll hand her money for gas and pitching in," Spinello. "That is a lot cheaper than having to pay for the subway every single day."

Majority drive alone

Despite the benefits, carpooling across much of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area is stubbornly at 10 per cent. The vast majority of drivers sit alone in their cars.

"A lot of people will say that the greatest single wasted transportation resources are those empty seats in automobiles," said Lorenzo Mele, the city of Mississauga’s transportation demand manager.

He says what’s missing is a marketing campaign to sell people on carpooling, similiar to the one that helped move blue box recyling into the mainstream.

"Carpooling really needs to be normalized," he added. "It's normal to put your blue box out. It's normal to put your green waste in the green bin. It could be normal to share rides. There could be a day when, you know, it would be unusual not to share a ride somewhere."