According to most recent statistics, roughly 10 percent of the U.S. population travels by carpool each day. Carpooling, ridesharing and other similar programs that allow people to share private transportation have long been popular means for saving money and time as a commuter, especially in urban areas. Many cities have implemented formal programs because they’ve seen benefits, too—less congested roadways, lower emissions and a shift in the perceived quality of life for citizens.
These days, though, carpooling programs aren’t just about the carpool lane and rideshare boards hosted on a city’s website. Startups, social networks and mobile technology are working together to change the face of ridesharing as we know it. Consider the following trends in carpooling and how your city or state can embrace them today.
Avego.com, GoLoco.org,nd Zimride are just a few of the startups that have launched in recent years that harness the power of the social graph to connect commuters with rides. A hybrid of carpooling, buses and online auctions, these sites enable users to log on to a website, download mobile apps or connect via Facebook™ to see real-time results of people looking for rides or offering them, and most provide access to profiles to learn about other users. The result is a carpool program that’s fast, convenient and friendly.
“We embrace ridesharing as a social activity and Facebook provides a rich social context to connect and establish trust,” explain’s Zimride’s website. “Zimriders can view profiles for common networks, interests and friends before deciding to share a ride.”
In addition to matching commuters and helping companies organize fleets, many of these services that work as mobile apps also offer GPS coordinated directions to drivers to pick up new passengers and calculate the cost of routes so everyone can chip in or employers can reimburse.
Other cities, like Portland, offer tax breaks and other tax incentives to certain carpoolers and employers who encourage employees to carpool. Then, there are cities like Seattle that hold annual challenges for residents that offer the chance to win big-ticket prizes and gift certificates for driving less.
Getting the word out
It may not be a new idea to cut costs and improve the quality of life by commuting with others, but the way we carpool is changing. Embrace these changes today in your city to offer more choices in transportation.
New York Times Interactive Feature. "Car-Pooling Declines as Driving Becomes Cheaper – Interactive Feature – NYTimes.com." The New York Times – Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. 28 Jan. 2011. Web. 18 July 2011.