Carpooling has proven to be successful in maintaining a less polluted environment. By piling two to five people into one car rather than taking five different cars, our air, land, and water are not as heavily exposed to emissions of carbon and other harmful pollutants.
In 1980, nearly 20 percent of all commuter trips were carpools. Although there’s been an increase of 40 million more workers since then, carpooling has declined precipitously. The most current data indicating only 9.4 percent of commuter trips are done through carpooling. That’s a reduction of more than half!
But Google’s company, Waze, believes it can bring back the carpool. The service, Waze Carpool, helps conscientious commuters find and ride with each other. Through the app, users can hop on a ride with a fellow Wazer going towards the same general area.
Waze is different from other ride-sharing apps since it only allows riders to make two trips per day – riding to and from work. It’s also much cheaper for riders, who only chip in for gas/car mileage at the IRS reimbursement rate of $0.54 per mile. Drivers don’t get paid like Uber or Lyft riders, either. They only get the money to cover their ride, plus the bonus of being able to take the carpool lane, if available. And while Uber does operate UberPool, it’s not a traditional carpool service since drivers are in it to make money – not get to work themselves.
Going Through Changes
Of course, it remains to be seen if carpooling can make a come-back.
Culturally, a lot of things have changed since the 1980s. For one, working hours are not as rigid as they used to be. Flexible hours have replaced 9-5 shifts, leaving fewer people traveling to and from work at the same time.
In addition, the price of gas remains pretty cheap. Carpooling became popular in the 70s and 80s when prices for gasoline surged. It then fell in the 90s, when prices plummeted to just around $1 per gallon. Adjusted for inflation, prices today – hovering around $2.56 per gallon – are still lower than they were in the late 70s and 80s. That doesn’t give commuters much incentive to pair up.
Contrast that to Europe, where a gallon of gas costs around $6. There, carpooling services are booming. The largest, French-born BlaBlaCar, has more than 40 million registered users across Europe, Russia and Latin America – with no plans to operate in the United States. In fact, when speaking about areas the company is considering for expansion, the CEO and co-founder Nicolas Brusson said, “We’re not sure there’s really a market for car-sharing in the United States.”
United We Sit
In addition to being environmentally friendly, carpooling can speed up your commute, since multi-riders can use the High Occupancy Vehicle Lanes.These lanes are generally faster than other lanes may be.
But carpooling can also improve your life. About 85 percent of Americans commute over 50 minutes per day. 8.3 percent spend over 2 hours. Tally those hours over the workweek, and the effect is soul-crushing. Studies have found that people who commute by themselves are fatter, sleepier, have high blood pressure and are just more miserable.
Interestingly, carpooling mitigates those effects, according to researchers. Social contact and conversation provides the type of company one can’t get from a radio.
Whether carpooling can make us happier remains to be seen, but it does need a serious boost from technology in order to catch on. At the moment, Waze Carpool is only available in nine counties across California, such as Sacramento and the Bay area. Another company, Scoop is also operating in California, tapping into employers and cities to coordinate rides. In fact, Cisco was Scoop’s first client.
Waze Carpool is actively seeking to expand to various cities in the United States and Latin America. Within the next year or so, commuters will be able to make their Waze out the door and to their destinations with ease. Competition is fierce though, because of UberPool being so widely known as well as accessible to various parts of the country and in our neighboring nations.
Tell us what you think. What are your thoughts on carpooling to work?
Written by Cassidy Lunney. Article submitted 9/21