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Schoolpool Tech for Safe Routes to School

Technological tools open up new ways to think about safe routes to school

Providing safe, reliable ways for kids to get to and from school is a top priority for parents and school administrators. Initiatives like the Safe Routes to School program can be paired with next-generation technological tools to help school communities build smart carpool programs that help participants save money, reduce traffic and strengthen social bonds.

Safe Routes to School provides parents with detailed information (pdf) on how to launch and manage a student carpool. Here’s what they suggest:

  • Access a school directory to find nearby families interested in starting a schoolpool.
  • Register your schoolpool and decide whether to pick up students at a designated spot in the neighborhood or use a door-to-door approach.
  • Arrange to meet the participating families in person before starting the schoolpool.
  • Exchange contact information and decide on a day to launch your new schoolpool.
  • Make sure all participants have access to important safety equipment, such as child car seats and restraint systems for young students.
  • Do a test run to make sure everything works smoothly.

Following these steps can seem daunting when you’re starting from scratch. Is it really worth the effort?

Reap the benefits of smart management tools and help build a safer, stronger school community

As evidenced by their support from Safe Routes to School, schoolpools are a great student transportation solution. Their key benefits include:

  • Improved safety. Students enjoy reliable transportation to and from school, and carpooling reduces the amount of traffic in pick-up and drop-off zones, reducing hazards to pedestrians.
  • A stronger school community. Students and parents alike can make new friends and help build stronger community bonds. Shared transportation is a great way to socialize!
  • Cost savings. Carpools reduce financial burdens on school budgets, and help parents save gas money by sharing driving duties.
  • A cleaner environment. Schoolpools help cut traffic emissions while educating children on the importance of the environment and instilling them with a sense of ecological responsibility at a young age.

Modern technology provides a wealth of online tools that could be used to manage schoolpools. For example, by creating shared online driving schedules. Or, by alerting other participating families if a student is sick or the designated parent is unable to drive on a certain day. However, there are few ready-made solutions that parents and administrators can rely on to implement school- or district- or city-wide programs. That’s where we come in.

The RideAmigos transportation demand management platform delivers advanced schoolpool creation and management tools. Our software has already helped thousands of parents create student carpool programs. Learn more about our work with K-12 schools and explore the many useful features of our schoolpool module.

Photo Credit: Lucélia Ribeiro, “Children at School”

 

Tech Tools to Solve the Parking Crunch

Parking is a major cause of traffic congestion and urban air pollution. How can technology help?

It’s a problem that practically every city dweller is familiar with: reaching a destination, only to find there’s nowhere to park.

A recent research project compiled by University of California-Los Angeles professor Donald Shoup found that it can take the average driver up to 14 minutes to find a parking spot. As much as 74 percent of parking congestion in major urban centers results from drivers looking for parking.

Clearly, parking is a major contributor to urban traffic and pollution problems. In searching for solutions, individual drivers and municipalities, businesses, and universities can take advantage of new technological tools to make parking easier, faster and more efficient.    

A Great Start: Smarter Parking

Here are a few examples of the innovative, technology-driven strategies municipalities are using to help manage parking-related issues:

San Francisco – The SFPark system  is one of the most successful examples of dynamic, technology-based solutions to parking challenges. Interfacing directly with the city’s parking infrastructure, SFPark tracks availability in real time, alerting users to parking garages that have the greatest number of available spaces. Drivers can head straight to where the parking is, rather than wasting time and fuel searching for a spot.

Boston – In Boston’s south end, similar technology is in use. A new app, called the Parker, displays parking availability information in real time, and also delivers turn-by-turn directions to drivers.

Minnesota – A recent collaboration between the University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies and MnDOT uses cameras to automatically detect parking available at truck stops. Real-time data is made available through the web, electronic road signs, and even in-cab messaging.

Sydney – The city of Sydney has developed its own unique take, designed for commuters who drive into the city for work. There, drivers can use an app developed by parking company Divvy to find vacant spaces available for rent in buildings. Commuters can save hundreds of dollars a month by renting a spot instead of paying for street parking, all while eliminating congestion.

Even Better: Reduce the Need

Making the most efficient use of available parking is an important step, but an even more effective route is reducing the need for parking by making it easier for people to carpool, bike, walk, or take public transit. To that end, here are some proven techniques organizations use to cut back on parking demand:

  • Colleges and universities can launch rideshare networks and vanpool services, or subsidize public transportation passes to get people using alternative modes. These campus parking solutions can save schools huge amounts of money by liberating them from the need to build onerous and expensive new parking facilities.
  • Businesses who own or lease their parking facilities can use innovative techniques to encourage employees to ditch the solo drive in favor of smart alternatives. Proven strategies to reduce enterprise parking costs include parking cash-out programs, earn-a-bike programs, and challenge and incentive programs that reward commuters for sharing rides, using transit, or adopting active commuting.
  • Government employers can use similar techniques to drive behavior change and scale down parking demand. Maximizing government parking is especially important, since public funds are used to cover operating costs.
  • Municipalities are moving toward strategies that make solo driving and parking less appealing from a cost perspective. Faced with more expensive parking and other tolls, many would-be solo motorists will make better use of available alternatives.

All of these programs and policies can be designed, promoted, refined, and administered with advanced software tools specifically designed for the transportation demand management market.

Manage Parking Needs with the RideAmigos Platform

Transportation demand management software like the RideAmigos platform offers powerful tools for managing parking assets and reducing parking demand. Our software can integrate with parking infrastructure in dynamic ways, and it can also help you create and manage programs that reduce or even eliminate the need for parking altogether. Through powerful trip planning tools and highly customizable incentive programs, our platform helps users take advantage of the many available alternatives to solo driving.

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Photo Credit: Steve Morgan

Exploring New Technologies in Transportation

 

Ben Dalton is CTO and co-founder at RideAmigos. Through his experience, Ben has developed a passion for finding new ways to utilize technology to facilitate cultural improvements. He shares some insight on the multiple intersections of new transportation technologies.

Over the last 10 years, the world has experienced significant growth in the technology sector. Smartphones are changing the way we interact with the world through apps like Airbnb, Uber, Car2Go, etc., by making us think about common shareable resources. Companies like Tesla and Nissan are working to make electric vehicles attractive and viable because there is an existing and increasing demand for this service. Open Street Map (OSM) and other open data initiatives, together with open source projects, are serving as a foundation for all of the future’s advancements.

Ben highlights that a bright future is possible for the commuter. Useful technologies have already been developed, but there’s still a lot of work ahead.

  • Electric Vehicle Technology
  • Autonomous Vehicles
  • iBeacons
  • Wearables
  • GPS
  • Cellular Data
  • Open Source
  • Open Data
  • Dynamic Dispatching
  • Interconnected Transit Operations

Watch Ben’s video for a look into the future and how collaboration between these technologies can easily reduce traffic congestion, our carbon footprint, and every day transportation struggles!

“Technology isn’t about any one given killer app; It’s about combining these open source projects, open data, new technology, new interfaces, and new modes. So as you go out into the world… start looking at the things around you and saying what can we do that would be different and exciting?”

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