Carpool – Mobility Lab https://mobilitylab.org Moving People... Instead of Just Cars Thu, 23 Mar 2017 19:47:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Finding traffic and car ownership solutions through ride- and car-sharing https://mobilitylab.org/2016/08/24/techies-traffic-solutions-sharing/ https://mobilitylab.org/2016/08/24/techies-traffic-solutions-sharing/#comments Wed, 24 Aug 2016 14:46:25 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=18854 While the D.C. region benefits from a diverse set of transportation options, there are unique situations where cars become necessary for those who don’t normally need them. With the rise of the sharing economy, there are now ways for residents to find more efficient ways to take the occasional trip by car. At the August... Read more »

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While the D.C. region benefits from a diverse set of transportation options, there are unique situations where cars become necessary for those who don’t normally need them. With the rise of the sharing economy, there are now ways for residents to find more efficient ways to take the occasional trip by car.

At the August edition of the Mobility Lab-sponsored Transportation Techies: Playing with Traffic II, in WeWork Crystal City, a group of programmers presented some of the ways people are sharing rides and cars in the D.C. region.

Sharing services: more people with fewer cars

Split’s Anna Petrone explained the D.C.-based service’s process that determines how users are grouped together in order to provide “smarter shared rides.” The algorithm handles the multiple factors at play, from the number of ride requests, how big the service area is, and how far people are traveling. Almost like an on-demand bus, the service connects riders’ requests along a common route and collects them at established points.

Throughout the day, Split adjusts these variables in order to optimize the number of vehicles on the road. They balance that efficiency with the variables they can influence, such as the number of people in the same car and how far people will have to walk to their collection points. Petrone explained that if each user makes a “small to moderate sacrifice” – walking a block to their pickup point – that creates a larger benefit by moving everyone using the service more efficiently.

Andriy Klymchuk’s app, Sameride, just went live last week, and seeks to build a carpooling community along certain driving routes. Sameride is starting with one of the same variables Split uses: limiting its operations area. By focusing outreach on one route at a time, Klymchuk hopes to make it easier for users headed in the same direction to match with each other. The first route for carpooling is between Woodbridge and Tysons Corner, Va., and more are scheduled in the future.

Jay Subramaniam presented the San Francisco-based Getaround, or an “AirBNB for cars,” as he explained it. The service connects people who only need cars occasionally with those who own them and only use them occasionally. This way, the cost of owning a car spreads to multiple users, and more people can make use of fewer vehicles. Subramaniam estimates that for every car Getaround has in its network, about 10 are never bought. There are currently about 90 vehicles registered with the service inside D.C., suggesting 900 were taken off the street. As it grows, Getaround hopes to make it easier for more residents to avoid buying a car, while giving them an affordable renting option when they need one.

Building blocks

Ride Leads is a digital platform that currently powers the DC Taxi app, but Matt Cunningham hopes it will ultimately integrate multimodality into commuters’ trips. The platform provides a “plug and play” development ability, allowing cities to bring all of their transportation resources into one app. Through that app, users can find the cheapest and most efficient connections to their destinations, such as taking a taxi to the Metro, and they can pay for the entire commute through the platform.

Ride Lead hopes to be part of the move toward creating “smart cities,” with a service that integrates data reporting and analysis. Cunningham expects integrated transit platforms to make it easier for cities to manage their many modes, and in turn lead to more cars off the road.

Prathi Vakharia and Ely Yousoufzai presented Ride Amigos, a platform that incentivizes non-driving transportation modes within large organizations. Following the psychological principle that major events create a lasting emotional impact, the platform encourages users during disruptions to try other ways to work. Once users have been exposed to these new modes, there is a chance that they will adopt them in the long-term. Yousoufazai even noted that adoption of new modes continues to happen after people win awards, because others will see the incentives and become curious.

Using the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada, as a backdrop, the pair explained changes in commuter habits that lasted after the event had ended. By promoting and gamifying ridesharing and active transportation with challenges and financial rewards, Ride Amigos’ platform logged just under 200,000 alternative trips during the games. Overall, 35 percent of commuters changed their habits during the event and, importantly, 15 percent maintained their new transportation habit.

Antonio Zugaldia presented Mapbox and its Drive platform, which underlies a number of apps, including Split. With its software development kits for app creators, Mapbox provides a major building block for services that rely heavily on geography, namely ride-hailing and -sharing.

The foundation of the platform is real-time sensor data from connected devices. This helps Mapbox compute traffic patterns, fill in missing roads, provide accurate lane or street shapes, and correctly align vehicles with their surroundings. Mapbox uses Open Street Map – the Wikipedia of maps, as Zugaldia explains it – which is continually updated by volunteer users.

Filling in the network

By connecting commuter to shared rides, it is possible to expand transportation options and accessibility while cutting the number of vehicles on the road. Moving people efficiently on-demand and providing options to forego car ownership can add a greater degree of flexibility in a city’s transportation network.

Photo: Anna Petrone explains how Split’s algorithm creates its matches (M.V. Jantzen, Flickr).

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Want to start carpooling? Pick up your phone and get going https://mobilitylab.org/2016/01/07/want-to-start-carpooling/ https://mobilitylab.org/2016/01/07/want-to-start-carpooling/#comments Thu, 07 Jan 2016 18:46:52 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=16543 Nearly half of all car trips in the U.S. can technically be defined as carpooling. But that’s because we often travel together with our friends and family. Besides those joy rides, sharing a car has had a troubling recent history – mainly when it comes to the ways we get to and from work. Carpooling... Read more »

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Nearly half of all car trips in the U.S. can technically be defined as carpooling. But that’s because we often travel together with our friends and family.

Besides those joy rides, sharing a car has had a troubling recent history – mainly when it comes to the ways we get to and from work. Carpooling for work has dropped from a high of 20 percent of all commuters in 1970 to only about 10 percent as of 2013.

We simply prefer to drive alone – whether it’s because we think we need a lot of personal space or because we’ve simply fallen into a habit.

How do I get started carpooling with my phone?

Surprisingly, the only really true, widespread carpooling app out there is Carma. Nobody else has been able to make it work. After Sean O’Sullivan, the founder, succeeded in Cork, Ireland, he was determined to make Carma work in other places. It’s currently available in the U.S. in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Austin, Houston, Chicago, New York, Seattle, and Chicago.

Carma appeals to commuters for a number of reasons. It’s almost like playing a game – a game of commuting. Organized entirely through the app, drivers earn 17 cents a mile and passengers pay 20 cents a mile (the IRS reimbursement limit). Drivers are incentivized to pick up more passengers because they gain access to HOV3 fast lanes. When going through tolls, drivers in some places will get a message that they have been charged then soon thereafter get a message that they have been rebated the full amount. This makes it feel like they’re beating the system more, and that’s a real thrill for people, according to Paul Steinberg, Carma’s chief business officer.

Why app-based carpooling?

There are definitely traditional carpooling options available in cities across the country. But most of those programs require a lot of the offline work – like exploring spreadsheets, filling out paperwork, and making regular phone calls to fellow carpoolers – that is a big contributor to why carpooling has become so rare.

Tech-enabled carpooling is no doubt the next frontier. There is Carma, but there are also many others at various stages of development and, most importantly, at various stages of building sustainable user bases. Some of the ones that pop up in app store searches include Split, Duet Commute, Via, sRide, Scoop, and Carpool-Kids.

Also, cities sometimes have good one-stop web resources for various ridesharing options. One example is Arlington, Va.’s ride-sharing page for the entire Washington, D.C., region.

Why has Carma been one of the best resources so far?

One reason Carma is succeeding is that it gets that a company or start-up can’t just put an app up and get people to use it. Carma has worked extensively with local governments and employers to make sure they can get enough drivers and passengers and reach the same kinds of critical mass that Uber and Lyft have been able to pull off.

Another general advantage is that we’re getting closer to not having such “dumb wallets.” Carma and other transportation apps are starting to get more integrated. It won’t be too long before we’ll have all our transportation needs in one app so we can find routes, all the options, real-time ride information, and pay for it all in one spot on our phones.

If an app can take all the payment and communication hassles out of sharing a ride, then the elimination of often awkward processes will be attractive to people willing to try carpooling.

What still needs to happen to really make carpooling big time?

Carpooling apps currently have three major disadvantages:

  1. There is not enough promotion, education, and awareness that they exist.
  2. More local governments and companies need to be using them.
  3. Parking is still incentivized way too disproportionally in America. Parking should be something we pay for, like other goods and services in a market economy. That would be the American way. One way to fix this would be to have fewer incentives for “monthly parking prices,” according to Howard Jennings, managing director of Mobility Lab. If we made the incentives for “daily parking prices,” people wouldn’t feel so pressured to have to drive every day to get their money’s worth and they could break it up and take their bike one day, the subway the next, and maybe drive fewer days each week. That daily parking could then easily be paid through an all-in-one app.

What is the latest research on technology enabling carpooling?

There’s not a lot. But the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute notes that:

  • Improving awareness, trust and willingness to ride with strangers, and flexibility in scheduling may increase carpool use.
  • Incentives such as free or decreased toll rates and reduced parking prices for carpool or rideshare vehicles may also increase use.
  • High occupancy vehicle lanes (HOVs) may increase carpooling and ridesharing in some circumstances; local context strongly influences the success or failure of HOVs as well as other carpool or rideshare programs.

Still, there is little to no research exactly about modern carpooling app trends. If people are becoming more accustomed to riding with non-taxi-driver strangers via Uber or Lyft, this could mean good things for carpooling programs. A National Academies study lays out that with a better and more predictable system in place, with better awareness and advertising, many drivers would be willing to try it.

And the rest of the world is already ahead of the slow curve we’re on. BlaBlaCar is available in Europe, Russia, and Mexico and lets anyone ride with anyone. It is glorified hitchhiking – with the kicker that drivers and riders have in-app reputation rankings attached. Israel-based La’Zooz is launching in the U.S. soon, with designs on becoming “the utopian hippie Uber.” And Google, on its path to driverless vehicles, is working on ride-sharing tech.

What are the latest predictions about the potential for carpooling?

Given its well-documented decline as a commuting preference over the past three decades, carpooling has a lot of potential to attract new drivers and riders, especially across suburban households not well served by transit.

It’s not entirely clear what factors are discouraging commuters from carpooling, but lower barriers to entry through app-based services would certainly help introduce new people to the mode. Additionally, as mentioned above, carpool-like ride-hailing services from familiar brands such as Lyft and Uber provide a natural jumping-on point for many people who already have those apps on their phones.

What’s behind this potential?

People are looking for ways to take the hassles of a personal vehicle that sits around and gathers monthly bills and parking and speeding tickets out of the equation. That bodes very well for the carpooling and ride-sharing industry.

One potential fix for carpooling might be the creation of a major publicity campaign. And now is the time because young people are begging for transportation options that allow them to be productive, healthy, environmentally conscious, and less stressed.

Are carpools safe?

Millennials especially have much different assumptions about safety than older generations. It all depends on trust. We trust the Ubers and Lyfts of the world because they have tech-enabled data and GPS tracking on everything: where and who the drivers are, who we are, and all the payment information. As passengers, we feel that if something happens to us, at least it’s all right there in the database and anything bad can be tracked.

And one must remember that we truly are living in a very different world nowadays. The city council in Austin, Texas just passed an ordinance that tries to regulate Uber and Lyft drivers the same as traditional taxi drivers. That would mean fingerprinting all drivers before they can work. The Austin council seems to be missing the point that app-based GPS tracking is the new fingerprinting. Meanwhile, those companies are now threatening to cease operation in the city.

As for traditional carpooling, Uber and Lyft should be given credit for starting to introduce their respective carpooling variants uberPool and Lyft Line in some cities. Those services have a real chance to take trips off the road and ease traffic for all of us. Both Uber and Lyft say that 50 percent of their trips in San Francisco are now made with their carpooling services, which should start to produce some interesting data on traffic levels.

It would be great to say that the regular Uber and Lyft services take trips off the road as well, but because there is still always a driver making trips even without customers at times, much more research needs to be done to figure out that impact.

Cities – including Austin – should be focused on making these types of carpooling services work better and improve congestion rather than making it more difficult for them to operate in the first place.

A “slug-line” of riders waiting to be picked up.

Are there backup options if I commit to carpooling?

Other than any available transit options, or simply loading a few different carpool apps onto your smart phone, slugging, also known as casual carpooling or instant carpooling, is a neat option that not a lot of people seem to know about or understand. Average people get on the side of the road in designated locations and share rides. Right now, it only happens in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Houston, Pittsburgh, and a few other cities, but has great potential to expand with the help of technology.

Slugging in most of these places began after the oil embargo in the 1970s led to higher gas prices and HOV lanes, and it just stuck. People who “slug” swear by it. It works in these cities because there are HOV3 lanes that serve as an incentive. Usually, drivers will only take a maximum of two passengers.

And while slugging may, at first, seem scary, it’s really just out of the ordinary to us. In fact, according to Carma’s Steinberg, there have been zero crimes in the decades-long history of San Francisco slugging, other than one robbery of someone waiting for the ride.

What to expect in the future?

“The challenge is not the technology. The challenge is human behavior, and people don’t want to share a ride,” Steinberg said. “When drivers are driving their own car, they control the whole situation. Once you move to an autonomous vehicle and you take that control away and put it in the vehicle’s hands, you will start filling up cars immediately.”

Steinberg said that 85 percent of the cars on the highway today have one person in them. That takes up an extraordinary amount of space, which is obviously a huge problem and why we need carpooling to work.

Steinberg noted that another challenge is that practically “1 percent of the population” has access to transit options. “The rest of America is still living in old times, where we live in suburbia and the car is the only option most of the time.”

He said a multitude of things can be done to change the way people in the U.S. think about carpooling and driving in general, including:

  • The federal government should stop managing DOTs on time or vehicle throughput and measure more for occupancy.
  • Extend or modify pre-tax incentives (which recently took a step in the right direction) for other ways to commute to work besides driving alone.
  • The addition of HOV3 lanes by state and local leaders creates an organic environment for carpools to grow.
  • The addition of tolling on some roads has proven to increase carpooling. Carma has partnered with DOTs and tolling authorities in San Francisco and central Texas to build financial incentives for carpoolers into the tolling process.

For much more about carpooling, see Mobility Lab’s Carpool Archive, which includes:

Paul Steinberg video courtesy of Chilton Media Group for Mobility Lab.

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A first ride with Lyft Line, the D.C. region’s latest carpool option https://mobilitylab.org/2015/11/30/a-first-ride-with-lyft-line/ https://mobilitylab.org/2015/11/30/a-first-ride-with-lyft-line/#respond Mon, 30 Nov 2015 15:17:46 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=16281 This post originally appeared on the Arlington Transportation Partners blog. I was pretty excited to learn that Lyft was expanding its carpool service, Lyft Line, to the Washington D.C. region and opted to give it a try for my commute one day last week. Similar to Split and uberPOOL, Lyft Line allows a person to... Read more »

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This post originally appeared on the Arlington Transportation Partners blog.

I was pretty excited to learn that Lyft was expanding its carpool service, Lyft Line, to the Washington D.C. region and opted to give it a try for my commute one day last week.

Similar to Split and uberPOOL, Lyft Line allows a person to get a reduced fare on her ride if she is willing to have other people picked up along the way since they are trying to travel in the same general direction. It’s basically a way to create short-lived carpools on the fly.

In theory, this is fantastic news for both riders and drivers in the area. Riders get a reduced fare since they are splitting the ride with strangers and drivers make more money since they are transporting more people. All in all, this could drastically improve the efficiency of our roads by cutting down on the number of empty car seats driving around at any given time.

I hailed a ride and selected “Lyft Line” as the service at 7:29 a.m. (I must admit I was tempted by the Justin Bieber mode to get his new album at a discount because “What Do You Mean?” is so darn catchy). Almost immediately, a nearby driver, Mukalia, accepted my Lyft Line request and arrived promptly at 7:32 a.m. Not bad at all. While waiting for my driver to arrive, I entered my office location in Rosslyn and was given a price estimate of $14.77 for just myself, or $15.77 if it was going to be me and a friend catching this initial stop at the same time. It was just me, so $14.77 was my estimated fare.

My ride originated near Lincoln Park in Capitol Hill so, because it was a pretty lengthy trip during rush hour, I thought this price seemed reasonable. Last month, my coworker Jonathan tried out uberPOOL when it launched in D.C. and bemoaned to me about the fact that his ride routed him along I-395 most of time and likely precluded him from picking up other riders. With Jonathan’s observation in mind, I was pleasantly surprised that Lyft Line opted to route Mukalia along Pennsylvania and Independence avenues SE before jumping onto I-395 at the 9th Street tunnel. Any other hailed ride would have taken me directly to 395 for this trip instead of going along the Southern edge of the mall and near L’Enfant Plaza.

Lyft Line ReceiptMukalia seemed jazzed about the launch of Lyft Line and said that I was his first carpool fare. Once we got onto 395 and the GW Parkway, it was not difficult to remind myself why I bike to work – the traffic was awful. If Capital Bikeshare had already been installed along the Mount Vernon Trail, I most certainly would have said “peace” to Mukalia and bikeshared the rest of the way to the office.

Unfortunately, we never passed near another person hailing a Lyft Line ride, so this wasn’t all that different from a typical Lyft experience – it took about 25 minutes (same as my biking time) at a cost of $15.44 once tip was included. All told, it’s great to have another carpooling option in town and I really hope there are more people looking to share the ride the next time I use it.

Photo: Top, a Lyft car in San Francisco’s Chinatown (Karlis Dambrans, Flickr, Creative Commons).

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Trying out uberPOOL in the D.C. region https://mobilitylab.org/2015/11/19/trying-out-uberpool-in-the-dc-region/ https://mobilitylab.org/2015/11/19/trying-out-uberpool-in-the-dc-region/#respond Thu, 19 Nov 2015 17:51:35 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=16212 This article originally appeared on the Arlington Transportation Partners blog. This week, Lyft Line, a similar on-demand carpool service from Lyft, also launches in the Washington, D.C., area. Uber launched its long awaited uberPOOL program on October 22, and I took it for a spin on my commute home to find out the finer details. The system works... Read more »

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This article originally appeared on the Arlington Transportation Partners blog. This week, Lyft Line, a similar on-demand carpool service from Lyft, also launches in the Washington, D.C., area.

Uber launched its long awaited uberPOOL program on October 22, and I took it for a spin on my commute home to find out the finer details. The system works by hailing a car in the same way you would an UberX or Lyft, except there is a chance for other passengers to join the ride. uberPOOL is very similar to Split, which we covered in a blog a few months ago, and LyftLine, which has not launched in DC yet. However, there are some notable differences.uberPOOL 1

You can select uberPOOL by sliding the button to the left at the bottom of the Uber app on your phone. The key thing to note with uberPOOL is you will need to enter your destination before you begin your journey. The app needs to know where you are going so it can try to find people traveling along the same route.

After dropping the pin for your pickup location – you will be asked how many seats you need (one or two) and to enter your destination address. Adding an additional passenger beyond yourself to the start of the trip costs an additional $0.75 since you are removing one of the potential carpool seats from the journey.

The price quote for your trip is presented to you after entering your initial passenger count and your destination address. The fares are guaranteed to be 25 percent lower than a normal uberX ride, and are touted to go up as much as 50 percent below normal ride costs when additional passengers are picked up and you begin to split the fare. Surge pricing still exists but with the bright side of being able to see what your surge-priced ride will cost you before booking the car.

uberPOOL 2In similar fashion to Split, uberPOOL will wait only an allotted time of two minutes for additional passengers so those in the uberPOOL vehicle already are not inconvenienced. If you miss your ride or cancel after the normal allotted time, you are charged a $5 fee – so the stakes are higher for you to be in the right place at the right time.

Unlike uberX, your current route will not be displayed within the app. Since the route can change throughout your ride, the app cannot give specific directions in case the car needs to make a detour to pick up an additional passenger.

All in all, uberPOOL has the potential to create a cheap alternative for traveling across the DC metro region. However, the carpool option will need a larger user base to be effective. During my initial trip, no additional passengers were found. While that may just be that the app is not yet popular enough, I also noticed that the route my driver took was nearly entirely on major highways.

uberPOOL 3For uberPOOL to function properly – drivers will need to seek routes that travel through more dense areas where extra passengers can actually be picked up, even if this slows travel by a few minutes. The entire purpose of the app will be negated if the uberPOOL vehicle spends 75 percent or more of its trip on major highways where no additional pickups are possible. In my 4.3 mile trip yesterday I spent the bulk of it traveling on major state highways and interstates. I understand the desire to get your passenger(s) to their destination in the fastest way possible – but people using uberPOOL should know that their reduced fare may come with a couple slowdowns here and there for the sake of saving money while also reducing congestion.

I’ll look to do a follow up piece on this write-up in a few weeks/months once uberPOOL begins to garner a larger user base. Maybe then additional passengers and the chance of actual carpooling will become a reality.

Photo: An Uber driver in Melbourne, Australia (Alpha, Flickr, Creative Commons). Screenshots by author.

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Carsharing growing around the world with more user-friendly options https://mobilitylab.org/2015/09/28/carsharing-growing-around-the-world-with-more-user-friendly-options/ https://mobilitylab.org/2015/09/28/carsharing-growing-around-the-world-with-more-user-friendly-options/#comments Mon, 28 Sep 2015 15:18:42 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=15868 Carsharing, which is projected in a new report to grow globally by about sixfold by 2024, is beginning to look like a reliable transportation option in places like the Washington D.C. region and beyond. “The U.S. has fewer cities than Europe with comprehensive public transit services, which is usually – but not always – a... Read more »

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Carsharing, which is projected in a new report to grow globally by about sixfold by 2024, is beginning to look like a reliable transportation option in places like the Washington D.C. region and beyond.

“The U.S. has fewer cities than Europe with comprehensive public transit services, which is usually – but not always – a condition for successful carsharing,” said Lisa Jerram, a co-author of Navigant Research’s latest global market analysis and forecast for carsharing.

Why is carsharing growing?

As the cost of a private car, along with the societal costs of endless traffic jams and smog-filled cities, continue to mount, there are new factors that carsharing companies could capitalize on to take even fuller advantage of greater paths to revenue and profitablility, including:

  • Making carsharing more like one-way services that have already succeeded, such as ride-hailers Uber and Lyft and bikesharing. In Paris, Autolib’ gained 200,000 members in just three years. And Daimler’s car2go and BMW’s DriveNow have adopted the one-way model.
  • Auto companies like Daimler and BMW are helping the carsharing industry in a big way, as their members make up about 1.3 million of the 2.4 million total global carsharing members. They are succeeding because they have deep pockets, which is needed to build comprehensive and reliable coverage and, in turn, membership.
  • The rise in plug-in electric vehicles presents a way for carsharing services to differentiate themselves from competitors, allowing the companies to secure tax breaks in the form of zero-emission vehicle credits and helping city officials promote green initiatives like low-emission zones.

Jerram, who co-wrote Navigant’s report with John Gartner, said carsharing “needs visionary city mayors that see the benefits of all these types of new mobility offerings and work to bring them to their cities.”

The authors project that North America will have about 1.78 million carshare members at the end of 2015, Europe will have 1.77 million, and the Asia-Pacific region 1.15 million.

Why would people use carsharing?

There are increasingly more options in the Washington D.C. region, for instance, for people who, in the past, might have asked how they could possibly benefit from carsharing. For example:

  • Car2go has hundreds of gas and electric smart cars around the city and was just recently introduced in neighboring Arlington, Virginia. Perhaps the biggest attraction is that car2go vehicles don’t need to pay for parking in metered spaces.
  • Zipcar spots are easy to find everywhere either by simply looking into the street or using their mobile app or website. Gas, insurance, and roadside assistance are all taken care of by the company, so using the vehicles is a breeze.
  • Enterprise Carshare has a wide variety of models within its fleet and several plans available for infrequent to regular customers.
  • Hertz 24/7 appeals to the techies in the crowd, with NeverLost GPS systems and its use of Bluetooth. They allow one-way rentals and even offer truck and van rentals at all Lowe’s home improvement stores.

How are people using carsharing around the world?

From the Navigant report’s executive summary:

“Carsharing as a service has been around since the 1980s, and it began to become a big business roughly 15 years ago. As of 2014, there were well over 40 carsharing companies throughout the world with more than 2.4 million members.

“Global carsharing services revenue is expected to reach $1.1 billion in 2015. The two largest markets will be North America and Europe, which are projected to constitute 83 percent of this revenue. Japan and South Korea constitute a large portion of the Asia Pacific market today and are anticipated to see continued growth. Yet, China is projected to be the largest Asia Pacific market by 2024, driven by concerns over heavy congestion and pollution in urban areas.

“Total global revenue for carsharing services is forecast to reach $6.5 billion by 2024, with the Asia Pacific region taking the largest share at 34 percent. Europe will continue to be a very strong market with an estimated 32 percent of the total. Carsharing services revenue in North America is expected to drop to just 23 percent of the global total by 2024. Latin America and the Middle East and Africa will continue to lag behind in this industry.”

Navigant Chart sm2

So do these findings mean that people in the U.S. are less thirsty than people in other countries for multiple on-demand transportation options?

Jerram said, “The U.S. has been a good market for carsharing and is a very strong market for ride-hailing services. But I do see Europe and Asia Pacific increasing carshare membership more rapidly than North America through 2024.” She added, “Europe is ahead of the U.S. in adopting a range of smart mobility solutions to minimize pollution and congestion in urban centers and to address climate change.

“The Asia Pacific market simply has more room for growth, especially in China. Although that market is not yet fully embracing this new, on-demand mobility concept, I think it will do so more over time as congestion and pollution problems worsen.”

Jerram did, however, praise the U.S. for doing well already in adopting carsharing and vehicle-sharing overall, “so there is real potential for this market to keep growing.”

This week, the Shared-Use Moblity Center and North American Bikeshare Association are hosting the Shared Use Mobility Summit in Chicago, where policy leaders are discussing these and other new developments in shared transportation options. Check out the hashtag #MoveTogether on Twitter to follow along.

Photo credit: car2go in Seattle, by Flickr user Atomic Taco, Creative Commons

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New App Connects Coworkers to Ride Together https://mobilitylab.org/2015/06/18/new-app-connects-coworkers-to-ride-together/ https://mobilitylab.org/2015/06/18/new-app-connects-coworkers-to-ride-together/#comments Thu, 18 Jun 2015 16:04:27 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=15264 Commuters who regularly endure traffic jams and long travel times to work sometimes consider carpooling as an alternative, but it’s not always simple to find people to share a ride. A new app called Ride aims to change all that. Launched in April, Ride hopes to connect coworkers who have similar routes to work – reducing... Read more »

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Commuters who regularly endure traffic jams and long travel times to work sometimes consider carpooling as an alternative, but it’s not always simple to find people to share a ride.

A new app called Ride aims to change all that.

Launched in April, Ride hopes to connect coworkers who have similar routes to work – reducing the number of cars on the road, and saving users money at the same time.

The app has a fairly simple interface:

  • Type in your business address and your home address.
  • Mark if you’d like to be a rider or driver, and the app begins to search for fellow users who have similar commutes, maybe even who work at the same company.
  • Specify whether you want to be a rider or driver. All riders split the total cost of the commute, including fuel and tolls, with 10 percent going to Ride. The cost is calculated in advance based on the length of the commute and the number of riders who will be traveling. Everything is calculated automatically and paid via Ride’s online payment system.
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Ride CEO Ann Fandozi

A staggering 90 percent of Americans commute to work by car. Ride CEO Ann Fandozi said the concept for her company began 30 years ago with vanpooling. VPSI, Inc., was a pioneer company in providing a large van to volunteer drivers who would then transport themselves and other individuals to work from a central gathering point. That business has been renamed and is thriving as vRide, and Ride is a stand-alone spin-off of vRide.

“Ride was much more expansive [with the] goal of redesigning the commute,” especially for people who drive 30 minutes or longer to work, Fandozi said.

The savings increases as the number of riders per car increases. When signing up for the app, an estimate is generated of annual savings, which can total into the thousands. One testimonial on Ride’s website notes, “I am able to save at least $200+ in my monthly commute and I don’t have to depend on my 13-year-old minivan.”

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To maximize rider saving and traffic reduction, Ride will provide a free three-row van or sport utility vehicle to drivers who can drive more than four people to and from their place of business, or near it, on a regular basis. Those drivers can even use the car on the weekends, with all costs covered by Ride.

“The key is to keep adding people to the ride,” Fandozi said.

Those drivers will have to go through an extensive record check, and their previous carpool riders will be polled on the safety and suitability of their driving, she said.

Drivers are required to provide a valid driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance. More thorough checks aren’t needed, Fandozi explained, because all of the riders work and live in similar areas. While this might be the first time they’ve carpooled, riders have things in common and often aren’t complete strangers, she said, adding that drivers are “not making money. They’re simply offsetting the cost of driving to work.”

Fandozi said that users will typically be riding to work with the same group of people until more users start to be added. Once demand is sufficient, it’s possible to more liberally add in casual riders that would use the service once a week or less.

Informal carpool networks exist across the U.S., including Washington D.C.’s SlugLines.com, which arranges informal rides from pre-selected locations. According to Fandozi, these existing networks have already begun reaching out to potentially use the Ride app to help arrange the free service they already provide.

Photo by Anders Porter

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Carsharing is Great Even for Car Owners https://mobilitylab.org/2015/05/28/carsharing-is-great-even-for-car-owners/ https://mobilitylab.org/2015/05/28/carsharing-is-great-even-for-car-owners/#comments Thu, 28 May 2015 17:31:32 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=15129 Cars work best for society when there’s more than one person using them, which is why we like when organizations such as Carma and Ridescout find ways to get people excited about carpooling and carsharing. I mean, who wouldn’t love cat cafes and origami owls? But seriously, aside from all the people you could be... Read more »

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Car2Go

Cars work best for society when there’s more than one person using them, which is why we like when organizations such as Carma and Ridescout find ways to get people excited about carpooling and carsharing.

I mean, who wouldn’t love cat cafes and origami owls?

But seriously, aside from all the people you could be meeting and the road rage you could be eliminating, carpooling and carsharing also has a high return on non-investment. Everyone knows that a brand new car depreciates severely as soon as you drive it off the lot and buying a car is actually one of the worst investments you can make, yielding no ROI and a heavy dose of stress.

Nevertheless, many of us still buy cars. (Full disclosure: I do own a car, but I only drive it maybe three times a month. I often think about when I’m going to sell it.) Even with a car, I still find ways to use carsharing services.

With carsharing, you have access to a car but you don’t have to pay for gas, insurance, or maintenance. You simply reserve a car for a set timeframe and drive it.

Three of the best carsharing services in the region are ZipCar, Enterprise, and Car2Go. I say that based on experience as well as recommendations from friends and colleagues.

Zipcar

With a tagline of “wheels when you want them,” Zipcar has been in North America for 15 years with an office in Washington D.C. since 2001. In 2004, Arlington, Virginia launched an on-street pilot program in collaboration with WMATA, which operates the subway and buses, to put Zipcar near Metro stations.

The best part about carsharing – and particularly Zipcar – can be summed up in their impressive list of facts, including:.

  • Zipcar members save 15 million gallons of gas every year
  • Without Zipcar, one in four members would have bought a car, and
  • Each Zipcar takes the place of about 15 personally owned cars.

Enterprise CarShare

Traditionally known for its car-rental service, Enterprise first started in Missouri in 1957. In 2005, Enterprise took its hourly rent-a-car concept and started moving towards Enterprise CarShare. By September 2013, Enterprise CarShare had launched its services throughout the Washington D.C. region.

Much like Zipcar, Enterprise CarShare allows you to reserve a car by the hour for a set price, which includes fuel and insurance. Prices are based on the city where you’re driving, but once you’re a member, you can drive in any city that has Enterprise CarShare.

One of the biggest differences to note about Enterprise CarShare is that, unlike traditional car-rental services, with which you must be at least 25-years-old to drive, Enterprise CarShare drivers only have to be 21-years-old. Talk about an advantage for Millennial graduates moving to big cities to start their careers.

Car2Go

Car2Go first launched in Washington D.C. in early 2012, allowing residents living in an already transit-friendly area to completely forgo the hassle of owning a car.

Unlike Zipcar and Enterprise, where you must return your car to the original pick-up location, Car2Go supports the concept of a one-way trip. In fact, Car2Go touts the fact that it is the only “free-floating on-demand carsharing program in North America.”

Basically, that means you can park it anywhere inside the District and you’re done. There are some tips and tricks you should be aware of, like not parking in rush-hour zones or making sure the street isn’t scheduled to be cleaned within 24 hours, but for the most part, you drive it, park it, and leave it.

Like Zipcar and Enterprise, you do have to be a Car2Go member, but pricing modules are based on the city. You can pay by the minute, by the hour, or by the day after you join and pay your one-time sign-up fee of $35. Also like other carsharing services, Car2Go provides insurance and gas for each driver.

Car2Go hasn’t crossed the river to Arlington or other jurisdictions just yet, but based on the success of the D.C. program, expansion likely isn’t too far off.

So now that you know a little more, why exactly would a car owner like myself use a carsharing service? A few reasons actually, but here are my top two:

  • I can use my carsharing membership across the U.S. In fact, I picked up a Zipcar when I visited Austin, Texas earlier this year.
  • I take the bus to work to avoid driving during rush hours, but sometimes I have meetings located in less transit-friendly areas. I use carsharing to save on parking fees during those meetings.

As I think more about selling my car and taking Arlington up on its Car-Free Diet, I know that carsharing will be even more invaluable. But you don’t have to go car-free to appreciate the benefits of carsharing.

Photo by Elliot Brown. This article was originally published at Arlington Transportation Partners’ blog.

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Uber, Lyft Get a Carpool Competitor in D.C. https://mobilitylab.org/2015/05/22/uber-lyft-get-a-carpool-competitor-in-d-c/ https://mobilitylab.org/2015/05/22/uber-lyft-get-a-carpool-competitor-in-d-c/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 19:30:47 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=15117 Boston-based Bridj recently launched limited service between Capitol Hill and Dupont Circle in Washington D.C. to help fill a niche not being targeted by buses. Another company, Split, launched just a couple days ago and is similar to Uber and Lyft in that you order a car to your location to taxi you to your destination. The... Read more »

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Split

Boston-based Bridj recently launched limited service between Capitol Hill and Dupont Circle in Washington D.C. to help fill a niche not being targeted by buses.

Another company, Split, launched just a couple days ago and is similar to Uber and Lyft in that you order a car to your location to taxi you to your destination.

The difference? Split will pick up additional passengers on similar routes to ride along with you. The “carpooling” system helps reduce the costs to passengers and also the number of cars on the road.

Also unlike Uber and Lyft, the app will ask you to walk a short distance (only or block or so) to ensure the car picking you up can continue on its current route in the most efficient way possible. And, most importantly, there is no surge pricing. In fact, the company’s website touts that all rides are always $2 to $8.

split_app1One morning this week, instead of doing my usual one-mile walk to the Metro, I caught a Split. (It’s currently only operating in a portion of D.C. bordered roughly by Georgetown, H Street Northeast, the U Street corridor, and the National Mall.)

One feature of Split people may really enjoy: you know the cost of your ride before you ever make a request. You enter your origin and destination and the cost quoted on the app is what you will pay. There are no changes based on mileage or time. That’s a handy feature when worrying how quickly your fare will increase or whether or not your driver is taking the shortest route.

My quote from 700 M Street NW to the Foggy Bottom Metro Station was only $3.82, with the possibility that other passengers could be picked up along the way. A similar route estimate at the same time from Uber, with no surge pricing, ran roughly $6 to $8.

split_app2Since I commute to Rosslyn, I chose to catch a Split from my house over to the Foggy Bottom Metro and finish up underground. I ordered a car and was instructed, at 7:46 a.m., to walk about half a block for my pickup at 7:50.

My driver picked me up and I hopped in. The ride was very similar to an Uber or Lyft.

Since Split is still new, I did not encounter any extra passengers along the route. But once the app starts to generate more usage, will I still get to my destination in a timely manner? My driver explained that only passengers along my route will be allowable for the driver to pick up. Generally, the app will ask the new passenger to walk a short distance to maximize efficiency.

And it’s not an issue if the person doesn’t show up. The driver told me that maintaining the speed and convenience of Split meant that drivers would only wait a maximum of 30 seconds before hitting the “no show” button and moving on. So, do not try brushing your teeth after you order your Split. You will likely miss your ride.

split_app3I was also curious what would happen if my girlfriend, who lives near me, and I want to catch a Split together. Thankfully, there is an option at the top right of the app to increase the passenger count, which also increases the cost of the ride. My $3.82 fare would have been $5.73 instead. Not bad. Rather than doubling the cost, Split only charges 50 percent extra for an additional passenger, which is still cheaper than the prices I was quoted by Uber.

My only complaint with the system at the moment is the address search looks to be missing a lot of restaurants and key landmarks that most other apps include. For example, I was unable to find the Foggy Bottom Metro in the address lookup. I ended up moving the pin to where the station is located, which is not that handy.

Overall, Split seems to be a very affordable transportation option in D.C. It is very similar to Lyft and Uber, with the promise of reduced prices in exchange for the possibility of having another rider hop into the car with you.

Some will continue to prefer a private car to reach their destination, but Split looks promising for those who want to save a few dollars.

This article was originally published by Arlington Transportation Partners.

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Transportation Agencies: Open Your Data Now https://mobilitylab.org/2015/05/19/transportation-agencies-open-your-data-now/ https://mobilitylab.org/2015/05/19/transportation-agencies-open-your-data-now/#comments Tue, 19 May 2015 14:21:25 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=15080 An important tactic for transportation agencies to balance traveler demand on roads and transit is to give people the tools and information they need to make smart choices about how they get around. One such tool is rideshare matching – providing commuters with potential carpool or vanpool matches based on origin, destination, and time of... Read more »

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Data Dudes

An important tactic for transportation agencies to balance traveler demand on roads and transit is to give people the tools and information they need to make smart choices about how they get around.

One such tool is rideshare matching – providing commuters with potential carpool or vanpool matches based on origin, destination, and time of travel. While the data exists that could make ridesharing an attractive choice for millions of Americans, conveying the information to users can be challenging because the data is highly fragmented.

Agencies must help create a culture of information sharing in which standardization and openness are top priorities.

Let me explain further.

Arlington County, Virginia has experienced the challenges of closed and non-standardized data firsthand with its Transit Tech Initiative. Since late 2013, Arlington and its partners have been working to create CarFreeAtoZ, a multimodal trip planning and comparison tool for travelers throughout the Washington D.C. region. A central objective of CarFreeAtoZ is to bring together information about all of a user’s options for getting around – walking, biking, mass transit, carpool, and vanpool – in one place, presented in a personalized, easy-to-understand way.

In the case of transit, walking, and biking, including these options in CarFreeAtoZ was a fairly straightforward process. Existing standards like OpenStreetMap allow us to easily incorporate and update multimodal street network data, while the well-established GTFS standard for transit schedule information allows us to quickly add new public transit providers. We also recently incorporated Capital Bikeshare into the app, thanks to its open data service that allows easy access to bikeshare station information.

Carpools and vanpools, as noted, are an important part of the commuting landscape, with a lot of potential. From the beginning of the CarFreeAtoZ project, the ability to embed information on personalized carpool and vanpool availability from third-party rideshare providers has been an important goal – ideally done in a way that is scalable and reproducible as new providers are incorporated.

Disjointed rules around data and lack of standardization, however, means that adding a new carpool or vanpool provider is typically a complex and labor-intensive process.

In the best cases, these partnerships result in quality information that is valuable to commuters, but still involve time-consuming coordination and custom development work for both providers and software developers like the CarFreeAtoZ team.

One example is our integration of the Commuter Connections carpool matching service, the region’s largest rideshare database. The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, the operator of the service, has been very supportive of CarFreeAtoZ, developing a custom data endpoint, or API, for our application to access. While we’re excited to be incorporating Commuter Connections data (look for it on the site within the next month), the process of adding this data could have been easier for both sides if widely adopted data standards and protocols for rideshare availability were in place.

In other cases, however, we have been unable to incorporate key rideshare partners at all because the barriers to integration are simply too high. In one case, we wanted to include data from Vanpool Alliance, the major clearinghouse for vanpool information in Northern Virginia. While the company has been very cooperative, the vanpool data is currently managed with a proprietary ridematching software platform. When we asked the vendor what would be required to access the information from our application, we learned that it would cost more than $70,000 in the first year for the API module to be enabled. What’s more, our developers would be required to sign a nondisclosure agreement just to look at the documentation.

Our frustrating experience with vanpool data and CarFreeAtoZ illustrates the challenges we face when important public-information resources become bottled up in closed, proprietary technology platforms. Much of the time – as in the case of the Vanpool Alliance – the data in question is collected and maintained as part of a public initiative and funded by public dollars. The fact that partner agencies – and the public itself – are unable to access this information without paying exorbitant fees indicates that the current system is broken, and needs to be fixed.

Thankfully, a better way is possible. Advances in open data and open transportation technology are transforming the way transportation providers engage with the traveling public – and each other. Open technology is allowing a new level of collaboration between the public sector, data providers, and software developers, enabling the sort of innovative services and tools that would not have been possible just five or 10 years ago.

A good example is the aforementioned GTFS standard, originally developed by Google to allow transit information to be added to Google Maps. The format is well documented and easy to understand, and an open, community-based process exists allowing the format to evolve over time. Thanks to this degree of openness, GTFS has been widely adopted as the de facto standard for representing fixed-route transit networks. As a result, adding a new GTFS-enabled transit provider to CarFreeAtoZ is a very straightforward process.

GTFS illustrates how a well-designed standard can help create a culture of openness and transparency around data. But ultimately, the most important ingredient is a shift in attitude about the nature and role of transportation information in the public sector.

Transportation data should not be viewed as a particular agency or company’s intellectual property, but rather as public resource whose effectiveness is directly tied to how readily available and usable it is.

When all information is open and available, including that of ridesharing availability, the public will have an improved menu of choices that will help take great stress off our nation’s frequently overused (and just as often underused) transportation infrastructure.

Photo by M.V. Jantzen

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SXSW Hackers Suggest Austin Transportation Improvements https://mobilitylab.org/2015/03/17/sxsw-hackers-suggest-austin-transportation-improvements/ https://mobilitylab.org/2015/03/17/sxsw-hackers-suggest-austin-transportation-improvements/#comments Tue, 17 Mar 2015 16:33:16 +0000 http://mobilitylab.org/?p=14599 Austin, home to great music, festivals and tech, is also facing some great challenges. Thanks to its success, congestion, long commutes, and escalating housing costs are looming. For the first time, Austin’s South by Southwest (SXSW) festival is hosting Hack Our City. As part of the interactive program, five teams comprised of both locals and... Read more »

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8535719962_7e5eec7375_b

Austin, home to great music, festivals and tech, is also facing some great challenges. Thanks to its success, congestion, long commutes, and escalating housing costs are looming.

For the first time, Austin’s South by Southwest (SXSW) festival is hosting Hack Our City. As part of the interactive program, five teams comprised of both locals and practitioners from around the country tackled Austin’s interlinked affordability and transportation problems. Austin is still reeling from voters’ rejection of a streetcar line last fall, viewed as a critical component of moving people and adding housing supply through transit oriented development. However, the community is now unsure what “Plan B” looks like.

Hack-City_tallWhile most Hackathons (hack + marathon) are focused on smartphone apps or software development, the SXSW Hackathon addresses policy. Participants, vying for coveted SXSW tickets, had two days to research, interview locals, and come up with the best actionable policy options. Working out of the Austin start-up hub the Capital Factory, teams worked for two days to impress city leaders.

A couple of key points emerged:

  • Austin is already doing great work on the transportation and affordable housing front. Though new, the city’s premium bus service is attracting riders with frequent service, Wi-Fi, traffic signal prioritization, and a semi-dedicated lane (cars can use the bus lane for right turns). Austin’s bike programs are likewise offering “premium” service with bikeshare, trails, and protected lanes.
  • The city is revamping its byzantine zoning code with The code re-write includes attention to the “missing middle” housing types: garage apartments, duplexes, triplexes, and small apartment buildings that can be sprinkled throughout neighborhoods.
  • There is also a “missing middle” in transportation. Solo modes (bikes, cars, Uber) and heavier transit modes like light rail and streetcars dominate transportation planning. However, shuttles, vanpools, and carpools could relieve a significant amount of congestion.

Some of the key “hacks:”

  • Austin needs a couple of communication hacks. One team came up with the iKnow Austin trivia game to communicate both fun facts and serious numbers. For example, the most congested freeway (the I-35) carries the same volume of trips as the bike program is moving through downtown each day. This helps illustrate that bikes are not “taking a lane,” but rather deserve investment.
  • Austin also needs to better communicate multi-modal programs with car owners, who often perceive the city’s programs as anti-car and anti-driver. Instead of “minus car,” programs need to be packaged as “car+.” Car owners certainly do not like the congestion and the search for parking, but have options to avoid traffic when they want to. The message is emotional and simple: Austin’s programs are seeking ways to improve your quality of life and mobility.
  • For affordability and transportation, bicycles play a special role that is not fully exploited for economic development and real estate. While we are familiar with transit-oriented development, why not “trail-oriented development” (an idea emerging in Atlanta with its Beltline)? There is also a huge boost in disposable income when bikes replace trips by other modes. Aren’t the savings more money for craft beer and music? Where is the Chamber of Commerce on this latent boost to the economy?
  • Austin is home to transportation companies like RideScout and Car2Go, so transportation and parking apps have a “Buy Local” appeal.
  • Transit tech’s next big thing is cracking the code on shared rides. Uber’s Uberpool and the Boston startup Bridj are working on transportation’s “missing middle” for tech-enabled vanpools. The beauty of these applications is creation of transit on non-fixed routes. Open data will be key to tracking the most popular origin-destination routes and integrating this information into overall transportation, land use, and economic programs.

So was this first-of-its-kind Hackathon useful? Time will tell whether the city adopts or adapts the suggestions. Participants viewed the intense, short session as both useful and constraining.

For future policy hackathons, knowing how to plug “hacks” into regulatory documents or programs is essential. All agree the mix of local and out-of-town participants proved to be valuable.

Have any readers seen other examples of policy hackathons? What are the essential ingredients that produce actionable, helpful policy and program improvements for cities?

Photo by Amber Case

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