Carpooling: A credible option

Visit most cities anywhere in the world and you’ll hear complaints about roads being gridlocked and people losing hundreds of thousands of productive working hours getting stewed in traffic. In Bengaluru, about 1,600 new cars hit the streets every day – that is triple the number five years ago.

Unsurprisingly, traffic speeds have dropped to under 10 km per hour with average daily commute time for Bengalureans lasting over 38 minutes. That’s a lot of wasted time. What’s more, the problem will only get worse as our cities and the economy grow.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. There’s a real alternative to a world that looks like a parking lot and moves like a traffic jam. Partly, it’s about better public transportation and investment in mass transit is an important part of the solution.

However, it’s expensive, takes time and not everyone lives within walking distance of the metro station or a bus stop. It’s also about new technology because technology-backed carpooling services can help use the existing infrastructure more efficiently today. 

When people can push a button and get a ride in minutes they are less likely to drive themselves – so instead of 20 people using their own cars, you have one car serving them all. But that is just the start.

Duplicate rides

In many cities such as San Francisco, New York, Chengdu or Paris, so many people now use Uber that there are a ton of duplicate rides – passengers wanting to get to the exact same place at the exact same time. With app-based carpooling services, it’s now possible for not just riders but even drivers to share the ride and the cost of the trip while going in the same direction.

By making carpooling quick and easy, we can help cut congestion and pollution. It is a model that has worked in other cities. In San Francisco, more than half of Uber trips are through carpooling and over 30 per cent of them in Los Angeles.

In first eight months of the launch of our carpooling product in Los Angeles, passengers did over five million shared trips. This cut the number of kilometres driven across town by 12.7 million and carbon dioxide pollution by 1,400 metric tonnes. Within just five months of launch in Bengaluru, we have helped save over 50,000 litres of fuel.

Carpooling is a collaborative alternative to build sustainable mobility solutions in our cities. The Government of Karnataka and the Bengaluru Traffic Police are working hard to cut congestion and pollution in the city and they have made clear that technology is an important part of the solution.

The carpooling push from the traffic police has led to a steady spike in the number of people choosing to carpool in the city as they acknowledge that the benefits are not just economic and social but also environmental.

Affordable alternative

Technology can help empower citizens to make smarter choices about their lives. Carpooling makes it easy and convenient for people, especially commuters, to share their journey and that in-turn, can help improve everyone’s quality of life.

Fewer cars on the road mean fewer emissions, less congestion and more time to spend connecting with cities and communities in new ways. Not only is carpooling a more affordable way to get around town but overtime, it can significantly help cut down the need for parking spaces.

Carpooling at scale can not only ease space on the road allowing smoother flow of traffic but can also lead to utilisation of extra space for catering to other needs such as public parks. With the government and authorities embracing it as a plausible solution, carpooling has a real chance of becoming a credible alternative to owning and driving a personal vehicle.

There’s no quick fix for congestion and pollution. Getting more people into fewer cars is an important step towards helping reduce the twin problem of congestion and pollution in our cities over time.

By making it easier and more convenient for people going in the same direction at the same time to share the journey, as well as the cost of the ride, carpooling can significantly improve everyone’s quality of life.

Over time, we can create credible alternatives to car ownership. After all, if you can press a button and get an affordable ride across town within minutes at any time of day or night, why bother to own a car at all? 

(The writer is General Manager, Uber South & West)

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