In San Francisco, every day, about 6,000 people get carpool rides that were not pre-arranged. In Northern Virginia, every day, about 6,500 people do the same. All these carpools have three people in them. The systems are called ‘casual carpooling’ in San Francisco, and the ‘slug lines’ in Northern Virginia.
It is like there is a taxi stand for carpoolers. People line up, and cars drive up. (Sometimes cars line up, and people walk up). The front people get into the front car (always two riders plus the driver) and they depart for the predetermined destination. (Predetermined by the details of the pick-up point).
Flexible carpooling builds on this idea, and makes it an official part of the transport system. Why? Because the savings to the transport system are incredibly large. We estimate that the San Francisco community saves $30 million per year in energy, public transport, and congestion costs.
We think that this sort of carpooling without pre-arrangement will work whenever there are enough people going the same way at a similar time. Our mission is to figure out how to get the benefits that San Francisco and Northern Virginia get, but to get them in Seattle, Ann Arbor, Anapolis, Denver, and every other city and rural area where people want to save money on gas, and reduce the traffic. It looks as if it would be a good alternative over the cost of new bus services as well, and might help transit operators to refocus their services and reduce costs.
To make this an official part of the transport system, we think there will need to be parking at the origin end, membership, pre-screening, smart technology to track participation, and ride-credits so that the savings of being in the system can be shared by everyone. We have made this animation on YouTube to show you how it might work.