Ridesharing in the 21st Century

Emerging technologies are building bridges between commuters

Reducing reliance on single-occupancy vehicles is the key to easing traffic congestion. Yet, despite the increasing efforts of policymakers, there’s still a lot of work to be done. Untold millions of commuters continue to rely on their personal cars to travel to and from work each day. Many major cities are struggling to get people to use other options for professional and personal travel alike. In order to shift commuter behaviors toward smart choices like ridesharing, it’s essential to recognize the underlying factors.

The main issue is that our society requires a large number of people to move around at the same time. People have to travel to and from work and school, run errands, and shop during business hours. These simple facts aren’t going to change. What needs to happen is for people to have practical, efficient, and accessible alternatives that rival the convenience of hopping in their cars and driving on their own.

Ridesharing is one dynamic solution that’s exploded in popularity with the rise of new technology. Apps like Scoop have made it easier than ever for commuters to connect with local carpools, and entrenched market leaders including Uber and Lyft have also made high-profile moves into the carpooling space. By highlighting benefits to end users, such as significant cost savings when compared to the expenses of solo driving, these platforms have generated a large and growing following. They have also demonstrated the importance of ridesharing as a core principle of 21st-century transportation demand management.

Scoop: matching commuters through technology

Scoop is a relative newcomer to the world of ridesharing apps, but it’s branded as the first mobile platform to handle all the logistics of using a carpool. Designed to provide users with reliable two-way transportation between their homes and workplaces, Scoop matches people with colleagues and neighbors who have similar commuting profiles. One of its most unique features (and strongest selling points) is that it gives users the flexibility to share rides as often or as infrequently as they like, and to serve as a passenger, driver, or both, without having to do much more than enter and confirm a pick-up time and location.

Users simply access the app the night before they need a ride to work, entering the desired departure time before searching for matches in the local area. When a match is found, the user is notified and the necessary information is automatically supplied to the driver. Later in the day, automated notifications remind users to schedule their return trips, which are also arranged on a custom, as-needed basis using the same matching technology. Passengers share costs with drivers, allowing everyone involved to save money.

Scoop is also configured to handle all the practical details involved with ridesharing. It enables the exchange of contact information, ensures drivers have safe records, provides turn-by-turn directions, and transacts payments between parties. The ease and convenience with which users can schedule rides makes leaving the car at home a better alternative.

Using UberPOOL to share commutes

Uber’s continued penetration into the personal transportation market has made it one of the world’s most widely used apps. The company has recently added UberPOOL to its suite of offerings, which essentially works the same way as its well-known ridesharing app, but instead of solo trips, it focuses on serving multiple riders at once.

While UberPOOL is subject to some limitations that UberX passengers don’t have to worry about, these are necessary for logistical reasons. For instance, destinations are required when placing a request, since the UberPOOL app needs to match users with others who are headed in the same direction. The pickup and drop-off locations can’t be altered after the request has been submitted for the same reason. However, there is one significant perk to UberPOOL: it costs up to 40 percent less than UberX services.

Casual carpooling and more with Lyft’s expanded rideshare platform

Lyft Carpool, which was rolled out in the San Francisco Bay Area in March of 2016, was specifically designed to appeal to a shared sense of environmental responsibility. Unlike Lyft’s legacy services, which are intended to help drivers earn incomes while saving passengers money off the cost of using a taxi, Lyft Carpool has firm caps in place on both the price of each ride and the amount of money a driver can earn. Rides cost as little as $4 and no more than $10, and the app is designed so drivers never have to go more than a few minutes out of their way to pick up a passenger.

The Lyft Carpool app has been called a form of “casual carpooling,” a concept that was popular during the energy crises of the 1970s. Also known as “slugging,” casual carpooling is a practice in which passengers informally match up with drivers for the benefit of both parties. Traditionally, casual carpooling allowed drivers access to high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes they wouldn’t otherwise be entitled to use, which speeds up their commute. Passengers benefitted by enjoying the advantages of private vehicles without having to actually own one or deal with upkeep, fuel, or insurance costs.

Tapping into that same spirit, Lyft Carpool is differentiated by its emphasis on non-professional drivers. UberPOOL and Lyft’s earlier foray into the carpooling sphere both face a common limitation: some drivers avoid using them, since they offer no guarantee of earning more money despite requiring more time and more driving. Drivers using the Lyft Carpool network aren’t in it for the money; they simply want to help do their part to alleviate congestion. To that end, it’s also well worth considering how full-featured TDM platforms factor into the equation.

Comprehensive TDM systems build bridges between gaps

While platforms like Scoop, UberPOOL, and Lyft Carpool offer many benefits for individual users, they have limitations when it comes to the broader scope of their potential applications. Organizational administrators, for example, are often better-served by comprehensive software suites that are specifically engineered to meet the unique needs of organizational transportation demand management.

Complete TDM software platforms like RideAmigos combine the practicality and accessibility of community-based ridesharing and carpooling programs, but also deliver advanced management tools. They can be used to help connect individual community members with a complete range of alternatives to single-occupancy vehicles, including not only rideshares and carpools, but also vanpools, public transit, and healthy options such as walking and biking. Administrators and network managers can form programs, create challenges, monitor usage patterns and campaign results, and access data in a virtually limitless range of permutations.

TDM platforms also provide a wide range of other features that help increase program participation rates. They make it easy to create, distribute, and analyze surveys to inform initiatives at the design stage. Transportation challenges and incentive programs can be set up in minutes. End-users can automatically log rides, see their total number of miles traveled, participant standings, progress towards goals, and other key metrics. Schoolpool and bikepool communities are a breeze to build and launch, and a long list of other customization, localization, network, and community features are just a touch away.

Such platforms are particularly appealing to organizations like enterprises, educational institutions, and government agencies who want to help change the travel behavior of larger communities. Real reductions in the number of single-occupancy vehicles on the road can only result from the ready availability of practical alternatives, and TDM platforms are designed to provide end users with a wide range of them, all while putting advanced analytics features in the hands of network managers and program coordinators.

Transforming transportation has far-reaching benefits

While the undeniable realities of global warming and urban pollution may have been primary factors in the initial campaign to fight gridlock head-on, additional advantages have surfaced as governments, transit authorities, and private enterprises have combined to promote alternatives to single-occupancy vehicles. In addition to helping end users save money, today’s take on ridesharing offers some other surprising benefits to both commuters and businesses.

First, there’s growing scientific evidence that people who typically drive to and from work on their own can use ridesharing as a way to reduce stress. Something positive and beneficial happens when you take a person out from behind the wheel and place her or him alongside other passengers in a vehicle. No longer focused on the demands of navigating gridlock, rideshare passengers are free to form social connections with their fellow commuters. They can also read, eat, prepare for the day, or let their minds wander…all of which contribute to increases in the brain’s natural feel-good chemicals. Anecdotally, many rideshare commuters report that they arrive at work in a better mood, feel more alert throughout the day, and perform their job duties at a higher level.

Happier, less stressed, and more productive employees are something every business wants, and that’s a big part of the reason so many enterprises are getting on board with carpools and rideshare programs. Participation in these initiatives also presents important branding opportunities, giving companies a way to align themselves with key values that resonate with both current and prospective employees. Thus, they put themselves in a position to both attract and retain higher-quality talent, which is a major contributor to the long-term success of any commercial venture.

Educational, commercial, and government organizations looking to integrate rideshare programs within the framework of a comprehensive transportation strategy would greatly benefit from the RideAmigos TDM platform. The RideAmigos technology-driven software suite is designed to make it easy for users to skip the solo drive while helping organizations create, promote, manage, and analyze rideshare programs with ease. We’d love to tell you more! Just contact us, or sign up to check out our informative video demonstration.

RideAmigos is a leading innovator in enterprise, university, and public sector transportation demand management. We provide organizations with cutting-edge tools to help people make smarter transportation choices and skip the solo drive. Contact us today, and join the movement to transform transportation through technology.

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