Ideas on how to Improve Ridesharing

Posted by admin on January 24th, 2009

This section of the site focuses on a selection of ideas that may improve rideshare participation. Some of the recommendations are based on the discussion and outcomes from the 2009 Real-Time Rides Workshop, others are based on our research and interviews.

Table of Contents:

  1. Focus on Large Employers
  2. Integrated Travel Information
  3. Further “Real-Time” Trials
  4. Comprehensive Participant Engagement
  5. HOT and HOV – The Importance of Personal Choice
  6. Customized Rideshare Incentives

Focus on Large Employers

Last modified on 2010-08-31 16:56:46 GMT.

Focusing on large employers offers numerous advantages in rideshare service provision.
First, some studies have demonstrated that the vast majority of shared rides take place between family members, co-workers and neighbors, because of the common social connection, or ‘social network’. The targeting of large employers naturally overcomes some of the safety concerns associated with ridesharing because employees share a common social connection and the threat of employment repercussions (such as a reprimand or termination) discourages undesirable behavior.
Second, the journey-to-work is generally a commuting trip that takes place during peak periods when congestion is high. The targeting of SOV commuting trips offers the greatest congestion reduction potential.
Third, from a matching standpoint, targeting large employers where all drivers and passengers share a common destination (and origin) simplifies the matching process and increases match rates by changing the typical ‘many-to-many’ matching process to a ‘many-to-one’ process.

Integrated Travel Information

Last modified on 2010-08-31 17:01:43 GMT.

The complexity of personal schedules and trips is such that future rideshare participants are unlikely to rely exclusively on a single mode, ridesharing or otherwise. As such, the provision of integrated, real-time, multi-modal information allows participants to make informed travel choices. The integration of transit information with rideshare opportunities would be particularly appropriate, as these two modes tend to complement one another in existing successful rideshare arrangements (such as the ‘casual carpools’ in the San Francisco-area, and the ‘slug-lines’ in the Washington, DC-area).

Further “Real-Time” Trials

Last modified on 2010-08-31 18:13:33 GMT.

While the addition of “real-time” services is assumed to improve trip flexibility and address safety concerns, few comprehensive trials have been undertaken (utilizing advanced, mobile phone technologies) to understand how participants would use this type of service and whether those benefits are desirable enough to encourage greater participation. Given that recent surveys indicate that travel time savings and cost savings are the most important motivators for rideshare participants, the research team believes that multiple “real-time” rideshare trials in a variety of locations, with a variety of incentive packages are necessary to provide more information on the relative value of “real-time” services and their ability to increase participation.

Comprehensive Participant Engagement

Last modified on 2010-08-31 18:23:05 GMT.

The ‘rideshare challenge’ is as much about human preferences as it is about the need for improved technology. As such, future initiatives should place as much emphasis on participant engagement efforts, such personal travel planning and the provision of rideshare incentives, as it does on advanced technologies. Preliminary research efforts suggest that the provision of personalized travel information can influence travel behavior and reduce SOV trips by 10% or more. Incentives have long been a successful mechanism to encourage ridesharing and are likely to remain important for the foreseeable future. Personal travel planning and incentives tend to be the most expensive components of a rideshare initiative, however designers should resist the urge to eliminate these features, as they are as likely (if not more likely) to increase the overall level of rideshare participation as technology enhancements alone.

HOT and HOV – The Importance of Personal Choice

Last modified on 2010-08-31 18:40:38 GMT.

Commuters are a heterogeneous group. When presented with roadway congestion, some portion of the commuting population will be interested in paying a toll to avoid it, some portion will be willing to share a ride to avoid it, and some portion will not be willing to change their behavior and will simply endure the congestion. In other words, commuters are likely to sort themselves into those who are “willing to pay”, those who are “willing to share” & those who are “willing to wait”. Public sector decision makers should be cognizant of these three choices when deciding on the characteristics of future road infrastructure.

While HOT lanes have garnered much interest recently, the importance of non-tolled infrastructure that encourages high occupancy travel should not be ignored. These types of facility provide users with an additional travel behavior choice and may provide important equity benefits for those groups that cannot afford access to tolled infrastructure. Ideally, future infrastructure will encourage higher occupancy travel through both toll and non-toll travel choices.

Customized Rideshare Incentives

Last modified on 2010-09-20 22:29:49 GMT.

Recent rideshare surveys have reinforced the importance of economic benefits (cost & travel time savings) in participants’ decisions to share rides (see here). However, there remains much to be learned about the effectiveness of different types of rideshare incentives, and how drivers and passengers respond to different types of incentives.

Recent surveys of the slugging population in the Washington DC area and the casual carpool population in the San Francisco Bay area suggest that drivers and passengers choose to share rides for very different reasons. For drivers, the largest benefit from picking up passengers is the travel time savings from the use of the HOV lanes. For passengers, it appears that the motivations to share rides are more diverse, with cost savings and travel time savings remaining the most important factors, but flexibility and environmental benefits ranking strongly as well. This finding is important as groups seek to recruit additional drivers and passengers in rideshare arrangements.