Creative Job – Commute Helper

Sometimes I’m amazed at the creativity of some people who earn a good living filling needs that anyone could do. I was at a gathering today when I struck up a conversation with a man who described his job as a “commute helper.”

“OK, what exactly is a commute helper?” I asked

“I help people have a smooth and quick commute,” he replied.

“How do you do that?” I asked

“I sit in their car, ” he said with a smile.

This is what happened. If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, the commutes in certain sections are absolutely horrendous. This guy was sitting in a traffic jam one morning watching all the people in the carpool lane drive by while he was moving at snail’s pace. He decided that he needed to get someone else in his car so that he could get to work in a timely manner using the carpool lane, and at first thought that his only option was to start a carpool.

As he thought about it more, however, he thought that he (as in himself and his body) was actually a valuable commodity and he could sell himself and that is exactly what he did. He walked to the freeway entrance and held up a sign that said,

“Traffic is bad. Spend 2 hours or pay me $10 and get there in 20 minutes”

He said the first day he was picked up within 15 minutes. When he got dropped off, he walked to the other side, held up his sign and got paid to go back the other way too. On a typical day he makes 2 to 3 round trips during the morning commute rush hour and 3 – 5 round trips during the evening rush hour. If there is an accident and traffic is really slow, his price doubles. He clears $100 – $300 a day sitting in a car so others can get to work and home faster!

I just had to laugh when I heard his explanation and how brilliantly simple it was.

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91 Responses to Creative Job – Commute Helper

  1. ~Dawn says:

    You would have to be able to stand somewhere so you wouldn’t get hit and could allow people to pull over. In my area, the car pool lanes start and stop along the highway, hard area to pull over and pick someone up…. but hmmmm.

  2. pfadvice says:

    His explanation to me was he stands at the top of the enterance ramp onto the freeway at a busy onramp – so actually before the cars get onto the freeway – since the onramps have lights that space cars entering the freeway are timed during rush hour, it is very easy for people to pick him up.

  3. Max says:

    Sounds cool. Also, this isn’t exactly hitchhiking, so the chance of waking up in a tub of ice somewhere is pretty slim … right?

  4. Frugal Momma says:

    Interesting but I think I would pass on this. Too many weirdos out there. You are better off carpooling with someone you know.

  5. Scott says:

    In the DC area you have what is called “slug”ing. A slug is someone that is picked up from designated locations so you can use the carpool lanes. The slugs work just like other people in town. However there is no guarantee who you are going to ride with each day. Also there is no guarantee of getting a ride. So they are taking a risk for not getting a ride, but I’ve heard it works well for them. Of course they don’t get paid, just a free ride to work.

  6. Mary Ann says:

    Wow, you can tell I am a country bumpkin! I didn’t know there was such traffic problems!! I live on a little ole dirt road and usually have the road to myself.

    Mary Ann

  7. Bob Bobberbob says:

    This goes to show how stupid carpool lanes are. You can’t legislate human nature. Doesn’t it seem really backwards to close off 1/5 to 1/4 of the available traffic capacity of a roadway during peak usage hours? How much non-renewable energy is wasted on stop and go bumper to bumper traffic while three people whiz by just because they happen to have a passenger that day?

  8. Ludwig says:

    People giving people rides in the bay area is a little bit normal. I remember the 2nd day I’d moved out here, my GF and I (staying with a friend) were out and about early looking for apartments. As we walked up a street a few blocks from a freeway entrance, a guy drove up in a car and said “San Francisco?” We were kinda bewildered and replied “no thanks”. Apparently there are places where you go to pick up/get picked up by people in the morning to commute into the city.

  9. Blogger says:

    Thats what i call a cool and creative idea. The best part is that he doesn’t have a boss.

  10. Rus says:

    Well in the UK we don’t have anything like this (yet) but its a good business idea if the goverment decided to kick up a fuss, which there are rumours of them doing

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  12. Jeff says:

    Carpool lanes are to encourage people to ride together, thus wasting less energy. If everybody rode together, there would be less traffic, and polution would be less of a problem. That’s why 1/5 to 1/4 of the road is reserved just for them, as an example to everybody else.

    He doesn’t have a boss, but he doesn’t have any job security, either, especially now that there will be copycats as a result of this story breaking.

  13. Zed says:

    pretty common occurance in some parts of the world

  14. Bob Bobberbob says:

    Jeff – I know what carpool lanes are SUPPOSED to do, but they will absolutely never work. This blog post is a shining example of that. The government needs to realize that they are never going to be able to legislate away human nature. Until then, carpool lanes are most likely causing more of the same kind of damage they were idiotically designed to fix.

  15. Charles says:

    This is the coolest idea i’ve seen in a long time 🙂
    Too bad i pedal my bike to work everyday.

  16. Fusty McLusterlan says:

    Bob….. where’s your head? This blog is an exception, not a representation. Don’t be idiotic.

  17. Mike says:

    Bob: There’s another good reason for carpool lanes. They allow mass transit to operate in a predictable and timely manner. I think you underestimate the extra traffic that would occur if we got rid of them. That said, there should be ways to improve them…

  18. Bob Bobberbob says:

    Fusty, when have you ever seen a full carpool lane? The only reason they are attractive is precisely BECAUSE nobody uses them. If, by some miracle, people DID start using them and they filled up, it would completely remove any incentive to use them. The solution to energy waste lies in finding ways to eliminate commuting in the first place, not wasting 1/4 of the capacity of the roads we DO have and causing the traffic to sit and idle.

  19. Bob Bobberbob says:

    Mike, I don’t know where you live, but in the Phoenix area, I don’t see freeways full of busses. All I see is bumper to bumper in 3 lanes and a few people whizzing by in the carpool lane. Nobody shares a ride to work, because they need their cars. Everything is so spread out in this town that you CAN’T be without a car unless you want to spend an extra 3 hours a day stuck on a bus. I know. For years I couldn’t afford to own a car. At least in this area, public transportation is an absolute JOKE.

  20. mark says:

    Who cares if you live in a shit country or if you destroy the atmosphere with your stupid car – at least you get to rush into WORK and get there 20 minutes earlier! LOL fools!

  21. Invalid says:
    “Casual car pools” are informal car pools that form when drivers and passengers meet at designated locations. There are a number of East Bay pickup locations, which are listed on the previous page. Drivers drop passengers off at Fremont and Mission Streets (or nearby) in downtown San Francisco. Sometimes the driver will indicate where they are going after that (north of Market, for example, or even to Civic Center) and offer to take passengers further.

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  23. Great idea. Is there any market for this anywhere in Australia? I’ll be travelling down there and I suspect this could be a good way to make some extra cash while on the trip. 🙂

  24. James says:

    Car pool lanes??! Brilliant idea. The UK and especially London needs these now. I’m emailing my MP.

  25. Mic Edwards says:

    I used to live in Jakarta, where these techniques were a common method of wealth redistribution. There, the people who ride in the passenger seats are known as “car jockeys”. You can find them at every entrance to the expressways. Many will wait all day at their destination for someone who can take them back in the other direction after work. I lived near an expressway on-ramp and I’d see hundreds of these people every morning.

    This story reminds me also of Singapore, where you pay different road-use tolls depending on what time of day you travel on certain roads. Many of these road charges fall significantly at 9am, so you’ll often see cars parked along the side of the expressways at 8.45am while their wealthy drivers (owning a car in Singapore is an expensive proposition, believe me) wait to save a couple of dollars in road charges at 9am.

  26. Keith says:

    The traffic in Singapore isn’t as bad as compared to San Francisco Bay Area. However, in Jakarta, it is worse than in Singapore. This guy’s technique is truly marketable. From what he sees, I’m sure there’ll be more and more such people like him joining the market to be “car sitter”.

  27. sage says:

    Wasn’t this in a movie recently? A guy picks up a homeless guy who eventually ends up becomming his boss? I forget the name….

  28. Jake Mongler says:

    I wonder how he does his pricing for accidents (and how he finds out about them)? If you do the math for his typical day at 10 bucks a ride he makes between $100 and $160 a day on an accident free day. Making $300 a day seems like a huge increase that would require making 15 roundtrips a day.

  29. Dave says:

    Scott said:

    “In the DC area you have what is called “slug

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  31. GW says:

    When I lived in Asia we did this all the time. They were called “Jockey’s” local lads who we’d pay $1 to ride in the passenger seat so we could go to work in the fast lane!

  32. a. bloke says:

    We have car pool lanes in the UK. They are called 2+ lanes. People use them for speeding.

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  34. iunex says:

    The carpool lanes out here are wierd, Morning traffic there only used for going north bound and afternoon traffic is only used for going south

  35. That is the most ingenious way I’ve ever heard of someone making money!

  36. Hazzard says:

    Just a real quick note to say, “Brilliant!”. Now, I need to get down to the freeway offramp STAT!

  37. Kryx says:

    It’s an interesting idea and all, but how does he end up back to where he wants? Since he only ends up where other people take him, I’d imagine it’d take him some creativity to route his carpools to get back where he started eventually…

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  39. Charle says:

    Is there no one who sees this as cheating?
    Moving extra weight around does not help with reductions in fuel consumption/emissions/congestion.
    This is a subversion of the reason there are such lanes. They now become ‘carpoolers and rich drivers’ lanes.
    I’d rather the government sell one-day passes for low-occupancy cars so they could use the money to counteract the emissions.

  40. Bigern says:

    This is the best idea i’ve heard in a while.

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  44. T says:

    Boss?!?!?!…LOL you don’t get it he has no Boss, there is no such thing as Job security are you smoking?, if you believe that, this guy will be richer than you ever will and faster as well he also understands that with great risks comes great achievements, bravo to this guy, he is making it happen, that is how Bill Gates did it.

  45. John says:

    The problem with this story is that most car pool lanes in the Bay Area require 3 people. There are recognized stops (noted with signs) in many parts of the Bay Area where casual car poolers pick up 2 people for free in order to use the car pool lanes.

  46. CoolJay says:

    I think this idea is good, but now you have to ask: Is this job sexist? I truly believe that it is. Take for instance, is a woman really willing to stand on the curve to be picked up for the ride? This is starting to sound like a prostitution job if a woman does it. Although i praise you for coming up with this idea, I still think we have to think about it carefully before diving into for a living.

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  48. Duru says:

    This is just an extension, and a profitable one, of the long-standing process of picking up passengers who want to commute with you into SF. For example, I think this has been happening at the North Berkeley BART station almost as long as there have been carpool lanes on the Bay Bridge.

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  50. Chilehead says:

    Charle said:
    Is there no one who sees this as cheating?
    Moving extra weight around does not help with reductions in fuel consumption/emissions/congestion.
    This is a subversion of the reason there are such lanes. They now become ‘carpoolers and rich drivers’ lanes.
    I’d rather the government sell one-day passes for low-occupancy cars so they could use the money to counteract the emissions.

    and I reply:
    Cheating? You’re kidding, right? No one (and I do mean no one) uses the carpool lane for reasons of consumption or emissions – they don’t give a flying fig about that stuff. People use things like the carpool lanes because they can, and it makes things easier for them. So in that respect everyone is cheating. The reason for the carpool lane is to encourage people to carpool… the reason for the lanes is separate from the reasons why people use them. If traffic is bad and you have the extra cash to pay someone to sit in your car, you are spending less time sitting on the freeway with the engine idling…. less emissions, more efficient energy use. And, someone gets paid for helping that happen. If you don’t have the money to do this, you actually have to find someone to carpool with that lives and works at/near the places you do. So here is something someone with no job can do to earn a living and reduce emissions! And the price keeps everyone from doing it, so the carpool lane doesn’t become as congested as the others and become worthless. Sure, the extra weight for no reason isn’t the best thing, but this isn’t a perfect world. And a car with two people in it doesn’t become that much less efficient because of the second person… the change is insignifigant with the kind of cars we use today. When we start using ultralight composite cars, maybe.

    Government selling passes so they can use the money to counteract emissions? There isn’t anything government can do to counteract emissions once they are in the air, no matter how much money you throw at it. Passing a law or ordinance requiring manufacturers to meet minimum MPG and emissions standards costs the government how much above it’s normal operating cost? Zero. It’s what they do.

    CoolJay: prostitution on the freeway? Not likely. I wouldn’t consider this any more sexist than the entire rest of society. If a woman was worried about rape doing this job, she could wear the new anti-rape condom while doing this. It would only take one person attempting it to put an end to that kind of danger. What guy wants his willie shredded on the freeway?

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