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A new carpooling service just introduced at East Central University can help cut transportation costs for ECU students, faculty and staff who live outside Ada.

ECU has contracted with, a company which matches commuters from the same geographical areas who are going to the same location.

"The increase in gas prices has put a huge burden upon our students, faculty and staff," said ECU President Richard Rafes. "I am excited we can offer this service to help offset high gas prices. It's good for the campus community, conserves energy and encourages positive collegial relationships.

"Signing up for this program is absolutely free," Rafes added.

Moreover, the savings can be considerable. Drivers who spend $200 a month for fuel could save $1,200 per year by sharing costs with just one carpooler, or $1,600 per year if there are three people in the carpool, he said.

The Web-based carpooling program is open only to ECU students, faculty and staff. Those who register with can find potential carpool partners with similar class schedules and commuting preferences.

Participants can sign up for the matches on ECU's website at /carpool., which is owned by Datasphere Corporation of Jericho, N.Y., provides the service to companies across the United States and even in Canada and Australia.

The company stresses that personal information is not released. Users can identify themselves with unique login names rather than their real names.

In addition, email addresses are not displayed to other users. Initial contacts from a "matches" page, from one user to another, go through the company's server so that the email sender does not see the email address he or she has contacted. The recipient of the email will see the email address of the sender and may or may not respond directly to the original sender.

That and any subsequent emails go directly to and between them with no involvement by

ECU officials stress ensuring personal safety by withholding personal information from potential carpoolers, joining a carpool with more than one person, taking a friend to meet a potential carpool partner in a public area before carpooling and making the pick-up, drop-off point a public location until trust is firmly established.

The ECU website also lists other ways of increasing confidence about prospective travel partners.

In addition to saving money on fuel, officials say carpoolers also can save wear and tear on their cars, enjoy less stress, gain extra study time or rest when not driving, meet new and interesting people, increase the number of available parking spaces and reduce air pollution.

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