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RE: WorldTransport Forum ridesharing

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  • Paul Minett
    Todd and Simon I respectfully disagree with the sweeping assumptions that you both make. Firstly Simon: my goal is not to displace buses, but rather to
    Message 1 of 4 , Jul 30, 2012

      Todd and Simon


      I respectfully disagree with the sweeping assumptions that you both make.


      Firstly Simon:  my goal is not to displace buses, but rather to displace single occupant (or low-occupancy) cars.  My point about the comparison to buses is that IF we have a choice for solving congestion, between: 1) putting on more buses and convincing car drivers to switch; and 2) getting the same drivers instead to carpool; then from an energy efficiency standpoint the (new) buses would have to be at least 40% full on average before they would be more energy efficient than the (new) carpools, as long as the carpools have 4 people in each.  My reason for promoting this observation is to counter the lobby that seems to think the only solution is to add more buses – it is not.  I have never suggested that bus services should be reduced, and our work at the Ridesharing Institute is agnostic towards which seat a ‘ride-sharer’ fills:  a seat in a bus, car, or van.  As long as people take trips by road, we want them to be passengers more of the time.  The main point is that research and development that leads to more people being passengers more of the time will reduce congestion, energy consumption, tailpipe emissions, and even the economic waste that occurs due to over-investment in destination-end parking spaces that could be instead used for productive purposes such as classrooms, offices, factories, or even green space.  The other point is that there is available capacity in the empty seats in cars, while there is not much capacity in well routed bus services, which these days tend to be fuller, so the main focus of our work is to fill empty seats in private vehicles.


      Our focus is not so much ‘non-car-owners’, though if the choice for serving these people is between adding NEW buses, and finding ways to get them to carpool, it is much less costly for society (and probably less polluting and energy consuming) to get them to carpool.


      Second to Todd:  you rightly say that ‘most rideshare programs require participants to commit to a regular schedule such as every weekday, or Tuesdays and Thursdays’ and so ‘can only serve a limited portion of trips’.  Yes, it is true that most ridesharing programs require this, but it does not have to be so.  The most successful carpooling systems in the world are the slug-lines and casual carpooling, which do not ‘require’ anything of the participants.  Their strength is in the absence of pre-arrangement.   It is surprising to see you being this narrow in your interpretation of the question.  Clearly innovation is required to disrupt ridesharing programs that are so narrow.  Currently efforts are focused on making ridesharing more ‘dynamic’.  You also say that ridesharing can only serve regularly scheduled commutes.  Examples like Zimride show that this is incorrect, as the current crop of venture funded ridesharing businesses are mainly serving the ‘non-commute’ market.


      I close by focusing on Simon’s opening statement:  “I remain unconvinced that ridesharing can play a major role in solving our transport problems.”  Surprisingly, when there are bus strikes transport problems tend to be solved very elegantly by carpooling.  And before that statement sets of a whole flurry of objections, it is only being used as an example.  I agree that if we do not successfully innovate in this space, ridesharing will not play a major role in solving transport problems.  I am absolutely convinced that ridesharing could make an incredibly large difference to transport problems, particularly congestion, if the general commuting populace could be convinced to choose to be a passenger (on average) about one day out of five.  At that level of demand, ridesharing service providers would find a large enough market to make it worth investing in innovation, and at the same time the broader community could cut back on many transportation related investment programs.  At the moment in the US commuters choose to be passengers on average about one day out of eleven.


      Paul Minett

      Ridesharing Institute


      64 21 289 8444

      64 9 524 9850


      From: WorldTransport@yahoogroups.com [mailto:WorldTransport@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Todd Alexander Litman
      Sent: Tuesday, 31 July 2012 3:33 a.m.
      To: WorldTransport@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: RE: WorldTransport Forum ridesharing



      Ridesharing (car- and vanpooling, http://www.vtpi.org/tdm/tdm34.htm ) is
      very efficient for commutes to dispersed origins and destinations. Vanpools
      in particular are very resource efficient (money, fuel and road space)
      because they do not require a paid driver or an empty backhaul.

      For example, it would be far more efficient to organize vanpool services
      from a suburban location to a central worksite, or for off-peak commuting to
      a hospital, than to run conventional bus services that have low load

      However, ridesharing can only serve a limited portion of trips: regularly
      scheduled commutes. Most rideshare programs require participants to commit
      to a regular schedule, such as every weekday or Tuesdays and Thursday. As a
      result, conventional bus services can serve a wider variety of trips
      (non-commute and occasional trips) which are not effectively served by

      Todd Litman
      Victoria Transport Policy Institute (www.vtpi.org)
      Phone & Fax 250-360-1560
      1250 Rudlin Street, Victoria, BC, V8V 3R7, CANADA
      "Efficiency - Equity - Clarity"

      -----Original Message-----
      From: WorldTransport@yahoogroups.com [mailto:WorldTransport@yahoogroups.com]
      On Behalf Of Simon Norton
      Sent: July-21-12 8:39 AM
      To: worldtransport@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: WorldTransport Forum ridesharing

      Sorry, I remain unconvinced that ridesharing can play a major role in
      solving our transport problems.

      Paul says that a full car is as energy efficient as a bus with 40%
      However this only yields real energy savings if as ridesharing develops the
      number of buses is reduced to compensate. And then how will the remaining
      bus passengers travel ? Can ridesharing really cater for every single person
      who now goes by bus, as opposed to those who are making regular journeys
      to/from work or who can plan their journeys sufficiently far in advance to
      enable them to ring up for transport ?

      Even for regular journeys, can a non car owner take up a job entailing a
      commute that is unsuitable for conventional public transport on the basis
      that he/she will be able to find someone to share with ?

      Is it possible that ridesharing will actually have a negative effect by
      encouraging people to stick with their cars even for journeys that are short
      enough to walk or cycle or where public transport is adequate ?

      Ridesharing can certainly bring some benefits, but I think it is inherently
      unsuitable to form a major part of a transport solution.

      Simon Norton

    • Simon Norton
      In answer to Paul s posting of 31 July, I accept that Paul may not want to reduce bus services, but I still suspect that this might happen in practice, with
      Message 2 of 4 , Aug 7, 2012
        In answer to Paul's posting of 31 July, I accept that Paul may not want to
        reduce bus services, but I still suspect that this might happen in practice,
        with ridesharing abstracting some bus patronage while still failing to cater for
        some bus passengers.

        I think there is plenty of evidence that people prefer to walk out of their home
        or wherever and pick up a vehicle without having to make arrangements in
        advance. In London there have recently been complaints that people have been
        deserting the central area for fear of massive Olympic crowds, and people have
        been urged to check in advance to find out where crowds can be expected. The
        point is that people don't want to have to do this ! Many local authorities have
        abandoned demand responsive buses in rural areas because they are finding that
        passengers don't want the hassle of ringing up in advance -- I personally
        believe that publicity for such services needs to specify their timetable
        sufficiently so that people don't have to ring to find out whether they can be
        accommodated. Several rail operators offer very cheap fares to passengers who
        book in advance, but most still prefer to buy their tickets at the station.

        It isn't just in rural areas that people may fear losing their bus services if
        passengers are abstracted away or if the authorities take the view that they
        have become unnecessary, whether because of a ridesharing scheme or for any
        other reason. Here in Cambridge, apart from express coaches and the long
        distance bus to Oxford, the only buses that run on Sunday evenings are a couple
        of city routes and an inter-urban serving a nearby market town which became a
        London overspill town. Many people regard weekends as opportunities to get away
        for whatever reason and they do need to get back home on Sunday evenings. And
        while train punctuality is not too bad, I don't think it's good enough for
        people to specify an arrival time at the station far enough in advance to enable
        a reliable rideshare.

        Simon Norton
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