When Jan Kaster’s knees began to go and she found it too difficult to use the bus, she thought she might have to retire early. But the Thomson Reuters editor found a way to keep working: she joined a carpool.
Using Metro Transit’s Carpool Matching Tool, Kaster connected with fellow employee Kristen Estrada, one of more than 800 Thomson Reuters workers who have created an online profile that connects carpoolers by home address, place of employment and other preferences.
The online tool, being promoted in October as part of Carpool to Work Month, helped the then-strangers discover they lived just a mile apart and worked at the same building.
Kaster said she was thrilled to have found a match so she could continue to come to the office, get dropped off near the door and receive help loading her heavy bag in and out of the car.
“I really appreciate that I’m still able to work,” she said recently from Thomson Reuter’s Eagan headquarters. “I wasn’t ready to quit yet.”
Kaster’s continued employment is just one of the many benefits that have come from the carpool, which began in early 2012 and grew to include another employee, Brandon Dandl, earlier this year.
For Estrada, the only driver in the group, providing rides to and from work helps cover her transportation costs. Kaster and Dandl each pay $3 for every 10-mile, 20-minute trip they take.
The group also gets to use a preferred carpool parking area near the building entrance – a perk that becomes especially important in winter. Though they haven’t needed it, the carpoolers are also eligible for the Guaranteed Ride Home, which covers the cost of a cab if a carpooler needs an emergency ride home.
Carpooling has also allowed the group to learn more about each other’s work. Kaster has spent 23 years as the editor of the U.S. Code Annotated, a 400-volume compilation of federal laws. Estrada sells hard copies of the books and Dandl sells electronic versions.
“When I learned that I thought, ‘Oh, great, I can ask you all about this,’” Estrada said, “I’ve been able to ask her about the book and how laws are written and have really learned a lot.”
Work isn’t the only topic of conversation among the group, however. As the trio has spent more time riding together, they have swapped advice and shared more of their personal lives. Estrada’s one-year-old baby will occasionally share the back seat with Dandl as the group rides together to drop her off.
They also listen to Minnesota Public Radio to catch up and discuss the news and have made a routine of listening to KDWB’s War of the Roses every Thursday morning (in the farcical skit, a significant other listens in as their mate is asked where they’d like to send a dozen roses).
While the practical benefits are important, the carpoolers say the camaraderie they enjoy has become one their favorite parts of sharing the ride.
“We all get to vent a little bit, which can be very therapeutic,” Kaster said.
> October is Carpool to Work Month
> Set up a Commuter Account