Is Carpooling Ready for a Renaissance?

Patrick Sullivan | August 10, 2015

A great article from Governing takes a deep dive into strategies for encouraging carpooling. The strategies suggested by author Tiffany Dovey Fishman offer a helpful guide for any TMA or municipality looking to really encourage and incentivize carpooling. This got me thinking about the current state of carpooling and the possibility that we are about to see a resurgence in carpooling.

Everyone in TDM knows that carpooling can be a very powerful tool to reduce traffic congestion during peak commuting hours. This is particularly true in dense areas where odds are there are high concentrations of commuters who live and work within proximity of one another. For example, 128 Business Council conducted a commuter survey of a local community a few years ago. We received thousands of responses from this community of over 40,000 residents. What we found was that every day several hundred residents drive alone to a large employer less than 5 miles away from the town. Neighbors fighting the same traffic and paying a premium for parking spots at the same location.  It just doesn’t make sense.

Think about how many people who live within proximity of one another commute to the same location at the same time in a 4-6-passenger car. If we could get 20% of commuters to ride together, the resulting impact on congestion and emission would be extraordinary.

The number of commuters who could realistically carpool is staggering. It would make so much sense for those people to carpool, except for one big problem – we haven’t yet figured out a way to make carpooling attractive to millennials. How can carpooling become more attractive to millennials? It’s clear that the millennial generation is the driving force behind the sharing economy and is willing to embrace new forms of transportation. This makes carpooling a natural new mode for them to embrace. However, it needs to be flexible and convenient, and it desperately needs the “cool factor” that has allowed bike sharing and transportation network companies to succeed.

I firmly believe that people will put up with sharing a ride with strangers if the options are flexible, convenient and cool. New ridesharing platforms like RideCarma Carpool, RideScout, and ZimRide give me hope that carpooling is on the precipice of a resurgence in popularity.