Carpools are limited by our imagination…


Carpools are limited by our imagination…

My comments from yesterday on AVs and carpools brought a couple of responses I felt deserved the light of day.

Carpooling has been around for ever, there are even tax incentives and other financial programs available that make it almost a no-brainer for people to participate. The benefits for these programs extend to both employers and employees, but getting buy-in from either group is nearly impossible. There are also programs for van pools and transit programs that have been promoted and pushed for years with very little success. There’s even “an app for that”.

Nobody seems to be against these programs, it just that the normal response is “that won’t work for me” or “I don’t think that’s a viable option for our employees”. I deal with this at least 1 or 2 times a month with prospective tenants and projects.

Ride share is just a “new” way of saying carpool or van pool, except that with the autonomous concept you’re actually reducing the number of bodies that can share the same vehicle. In reality for every 3 autonomous ride-share trips (3 passengers per trip) you add 1 more vehicle to the road versus an old fashioned carpool (3 passengers plus the driver per trip).

In some markets the concept works, but those are the exception not the rule.  rta


rta is right. Institutions, employers, and government have been pushing carpool and vanpool use for decades. Neither option has been successful in more than isolated cases. With few exceptions, transit ridership has been decreasing in large cities. The National Transit Database noted that in 2017, transit ridership fell in 9 of the 10 largest markets. One of the reasons is rideshare services, although there are certainly others. But people likely will not be more eager to have a “transit” experience just because it is in an automated vehicle. Individuals like privacy, flexibility, their own music, their own route, and the ability to complete several tasks in one drive. That just doesn’t happen in transit-like situations. It is not hard to imagine that automated vehicles may bring more vehicles to the roads, rather than less. This blog is dealing with “unintended consequences” as well!!  Barbara Chance

Although I mostly agree with both of the above I differ in one area. Carpooling has been driven from the top down. People are being ‘told’ to carpool by the government and also their employers. Most people don’t react positively to being ‘told’ what to do. We don’t need a ‘buy in’ from groups, we need buy ins from individuals.

I would think that people’s actions could be altered by suggestions that carpooling could be fun, cool, easy, and the like. An app that allowed me to find people that liked the same music, food, travel destinations, sports teams combined with a slick advertising campaign showing folks how much fun carpooling can be (like drinking a certain kind of beer, staying at a certain hotel, driving a certain car, buying a certain kind of insurance, etc) could alter 5% of the driver’s thoughts about carpooling. Heaping a little guilt couldn’t hurt, either. According to studies, 5% would be all it would take.

Plus, when I am limited to the people in my company or in my building as possible car pool ‘members’ my pool possiblities are quite small, however if the pool was everyone going in my direction from say a half mile of my home and ending up a half mile from my office, it seems like my choices are endless.

The beauty of a carpool that I have created myself without ‘incentives’ is that I can elect to not ‘pool’ on days when I need to see the doctor, pick up someone at the airport, or frankly just want to sleep in. If I must ‘pool’ because I have been incentivized by tax breaks or free parking or whatever puts the onus on me it, as Barbara notes above, becomes a ‘transit-like’ situation.

Typical government programs use a sledge hammer to affect change. I think this need something more subtile, like a hot app, a smile, a pat on the back, and a visualization.


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

One Response

  1. You hit the nail on the head my Friend.

    Car pooling, van pools and transit are marketed to the public by government, and they are presented as “programs”. On the other hand the ride share and on-demand services are marketed thru on-line and social media, and are considered to be cool (is that still a term, or am I showing my age?). Single occupancy car travel is touted thru multi-million dollar add campaigns that make it seem like the most relaxing and/or exciting part of your day may be the time you spend behind the wheel.

    Its not about what makes the most sense (economically or socially), its about presentation and perception. We live in a world where an advertisement for a 2000+ calorie triple bacon cheeseburger with bottomless fries is followed by a commercial for high cholesterol or heart medication, and there’s a decent chance that a large number of the people watching partake of the products in each add.

    The old axiom of “sell the sizzle, not the steak” definitely applies.

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