Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Carpoolers Need Meeting Places, Not Databases

- Paul Minett, Trip Convergence Ltd, New Zealand

Casual car pooling in San Francisco and the slug lines in Northern Virginia/Washington DC involve 20,000 people each day forming over 6,500 single-use, three-person car pools, and saving almost 3 million gallons of gasoline per year. Imagine if this system could be spread to 100 cities and operate at a similar size. It would reduce congestion, VMT, fuel use, emissions, and public transport costs while increasing sense of community (because people in car pools talk to each other).

The essence of casual car pooling is that there is no pre-arrangement. The people using the system do not know each other before they share a ride. It is as if there is a taxi stand for carpoolers, with each stand representing a different pre-determined destination. There is no pre-commitment, and the car pool is ready when you are.

This approach flies in the face of conventional wisdom that says people need to know each other before they will share a ride. All efforts by transportation agencies to increase carpooling involve establishing databases for people to use on-line to find a ride-match. Could it be that for carpooling success we need to provide meeting places, not databases?

In New Zealand two cities have put trial flexible carpooling routes into their ‘wish list’ for the upcoming planning period. In Washington State legislators are considering funding two carpooling routes across the SR520 bridge. There are enough seats on the roads, we just need to get them serving the community.


Paul Minett -
Trip Convergence Ltd -
Auckland, New Zealand

Contribution by the author to the world wide collaborative project “Messages for America: World-wide experience, ideas, counsel, proposals and good wishes for the incoming Obama transportation team”. See for latest version of this report of the New Mobility Agenda.

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