Carpool Karaoke with Erica Fraser from Markham Board of Trade

By: Samantha Maurice

Have you always wanted to try something but never thought you could? I pondered this question when I began my professional journey at Smart Commute Markham, Richmond Hill in June 2017. Commuting from Vaughan to Markham every day can get a little frustrating, especially during the peak hours of the morning and afternoon commute. Before working for Smart Commute MRH, I had known and heard about different transportation options but always felt that I never had the resources to do so or just never thought to try it. 

In my previous working environments, sustainable transportation options were rarely talked about unless it was on a lunch break when I heard my co-workers discussing their transit routes or their modes of getting to work. But since working at Smart Commute MRH, I have seen the benefits of having resources and experienced staff members available at your workplace to teach you about your sustainable commute options. Luckily, I have been fortunate enough to find a carpool buddy in my colleague, Erica Fraser, who happens to work in the same office as I do. 

This entry is a personal one and I feel that it is my duty as a writer to divulge into its backstory. Erica Fraser is more than a colleague to me; she is one of my oldest childhood friends and someone I consider to be family. Living in the same neighborhood, we’ve seen each other at our best and worst moments. So when the idea to carpool was brought up, we knew it was the easiest decision to make and jumped on the opportunity to do so. 

Now if you are a carpooler like we are, you know how fun sharing your ride can be. And when I say fun, let’s just say James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke has nothing on us (so much so that people often stare at us belting and performing our signature dance moves to the latest hit on the radio)! But carpooling is actually a great way to meet new people, learn more about your colleagues who you may not always get to talk to or hang out with outside of work, and if you’re a passenger, you can let someone else do the driving while cutting costs on driving expenses.

I had the chance to sit down with my friend Erica Fraser, the Membership and Events Assistant at the Markham Board of Trade, to talk about her views on our carpool journey, the advice she would offer individuals who are thinking carpooling and the reasons why she carpools (did I mention that she loves saving the environment?).

Erica, I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to fill out our Sustainable Superstar series. So let’s jump right into the interview. First question, can you tell our readers what mode of transportation do you currently use to get to the Markham Board of Trade?

Erica Fraser: Driving alone is my main form of commuting, as my work requires me to drive to attend outreach events. As the Membership and Events Assistant, I rely on my car to get me to and from events and venues. 

And can you let the readers know how frequently you and I carpool to work?

EF: We carpool every Friday, but sometimes more during the week if our schedules align. We’ve been carpooling for about six months and we make sure that we are able to carpool at least once a week.

It’s always a great time carpooling with you, not simply because we’re co-workers, but because we’ve known each other for ten years, and nothing is embarrassing or off limits (even if it is our interesting rendition of the Spice Girls). But I have to ask, what motivated you to start carpooling with me in the first place?

EF: As you know, I love saving the environment any way I can. By carpooling, we are saving the environment, which helps create a more sustainable future. Even carpooling one day out of your work week cuts down the amount of traffic and pollution we see day to day.

You really try to save the environment whenever possible and I think our readers will be able to identify with that. Are there any tips and tricks you’ve learned along the way by carpooling, or that you can offer in general about sustainable commuting options?

EF: Learning bus routes is an ideal place to start. Also, ask your colleagues what area they live in - you may have a neighbour in your workplace that you did not even realize was there! Even if you don't want to carpool, try taking the bus or cycling together. It's fun to have a smart commute buddy! It may be hard to adapt when carpooling with others that you do not know, but be open to making new friends and meeting new people!

Those are some great tips you’ve offered for our readers! Since we’ve been carpooling for the last six months, could you share with our readers the route we take? There may be some readers coming from the Vaughan area and may benefit from learning about a new route. 

EF: We use a mixture of streets to get to work - both main streets and backroads. I’ve actually been taking the streets that you’ve stumbled upon! Sometimes finding the best route is all about taking a chance, which you’re known to do. You’re always stumbling on roads that I would have never known existed. 

For our route, we start on Keele Street and head south towards Langstaff Road. On Langstaff Road, we make a left turn and follow the road straight through to Highway 7, where you make another left. We head east on Highway 7 before making another left onto the off ramp to Yonge Street. After making a left onto Yonge Street, head south and make a left onto Langstaff Road back road, passing the south parking lot of the Langstaff GO station. 

We follow Langstaff Road straight through until we make a right on Bayview Avenue. We head south on Bayview Avenue and make a left onto Willowbrook Road, which takes us to John Street. Turning left on John Street, we head east towards Esna Park. After making a right on Esna Park, we had south and arrive at the IBM building!

That is very true, I do stumble upon roads on the off chance that I’ll find a new way of getting home, especially during peak commuting hours (I’d like to point out that this doesn’t always work in my favour!). Since we are located at the IBM Innovation Space (3600 Steeles Ave. East), are there any amenities that you’ve seen around the building?

EF: From what I’ve seen, IBM offers sheltered bike racks for those who choose bicycles as their mode of transportation. IBM is also located near the YRT, Viva and TTC transit stops and there is a walking trail around the building for employees to use. 

Yes, it’s always lovely to see the bike racks being used every day! Since we know IBM has amenities for sustainable commuting options, is there any advice you could offer individuals who are looking to try a sustainable modes of commuting for the first time?

EF: Check to see if your workplace has any amenities that you can take advantage of from a commuting perspective. If you live close enough to your job, try taking the bus, cycling or carpooling before driving alone or driving at all. You end up helping reduce your carbon footprint while saving on gas consumption and have extra money in your pocket at the end of the day.

Well Erica, I have one final question for you. If you could sum up your experience of carpooling to work (and carpooling with me), what would it be?

EF: Fun! It is fun for me I not only get to spend it with my childhood friend, but by carpooling with others you get to spend more time with your co-workers and get to know them on a different level. You both have the same goal in mind which is to be mindful of the way in which you commute. It is nice to travel with like-minded people.

Well readers, as I continue to write these articles I learn more and more about how sustainable commuting has proven effective in the lives of our Smart Commute MRH Workplace employees. I hope you all are continuing to learn more about these modes through these stories as well.

Firstly, I’d like to thank Erica Fraser for taking time out of her day to sit with me and talk about our carpool journey. Erica, your commitment to bettering the environment is inspirational. I know our readers have resonated with your carpooling story. Plus, there’s no one else I’d rather have as my Smart Commute, and Carpool Karaoke, buddy!

Secondly, thank you to the Markham Board of Trade for their continued support as a partner of the Smart Commute program. You continue to support every initiative that the program promotes, and for that we thank you. We look forward to our continued partnership as we educate individuals on sustainable commuting options and the benefits these options serve them.