Carpooling/Dynamic Ridesharing: How to Save Resources and Build Community by Carpooling Instead of Driving Alone


Art Ludwig's raw research notes on carpooling and dynamic ridesharing


The impetus for this research is raising carpool participation in the highway 154 corridor where we live in Santa Barbara, California. The information could, however, be useful anywhere.


Shocking Statistics on Driving

In Santa Barbara County (1% of California's population, 0.1% of the US population)—

If you want to be shocked even more, check out What does driving cost?


Why Carpool?


Traditional Carpooling, Carpool Culture

Traditional carpooling involves—imagine!—talking, with your neighbors, workmates, classmates, playmates, etc. about their patterns of movement. Then, percieving the common elements to those patterns of movement, and matching them up. I grew up partly in Denmark, where this sort of carpooling was a given, embedded in the DNA of the culture.

Speaking of culture, carpooling culture involves several elements that are, to one degree or another, alien to car culture:


Rideboards, Hitchiking, etc.

Physical or virtual ride boards such as craigslist are a classic form of carpooling. The same sort of serendipty and cautions apply to craigslist as hitchhiking. My daughter got an affordable private plane ride to San Franscisco through craigslist (how cool is that?), a friend of mine got a totally unwelcome proposition as part of a craigslist ride offer (yuck)...fortunately, before she got in the car or even saw the guy.

Hitchhiking is increasingly rare, but still can be awesome. I have had excellent luck hitchhiking up highway 154, with my bicycle, in the dark. For some reason, the magical formula seems to be for my friend who gives me a lift to the base of the pass to stay with me with his car until I'm picked up. Several times, the very first pickup truck has stopped.

It feels like having someone watch me get in the vehicle, plus having a cell phone, offers me an extra measure of security. Twice I've been picked up by women who were driving alone. One time the woman was like--"I feel like I should give you a ride, but it seems reckless to do so...what should we do?" We went in circles a bit, then I had the inspiration to call my wife at home, who sleepily gave her the thumbs up that I was harmless!

In post special period Cuba, hitchhiking is deeply ingrained in the culture. Driving into Havana on a four lane boulevard, lines of people were formed by every light at both curbs and both sides of the planted median. When the light turned red, the cars would stop, every door would open, the people in line would fill all the available seats, the light would turn green, the people remaining in line would advance to the front. What a perfectly sensible, civilized, and beautifly choreographed system! (Cuba is the only country in the world that both has a sustainable per capita resource use footprint and a high quality of life). Cuba, it is illegal for government vehicles to pass hitchhikers without picking them up. My family used this system at points when biking across Cuba, joining as many as forty others in the back of say, a big dump truck.


Dynamic vs Static Ridesharing Software

Dynamic vs Static...static carpool systems match records of people's stock commutes against eachother. If you're movements are predictable, this is a great way to find out that say, a neighbor two doors down that you've never talked with drives ten miles to a place a block away from your work a the same time, three days a week.

Dynamic carpooling is totally different. It looks at what the ride is that someone wants right then, and artificial intellegences people together...essentially automates the old system of calling around to all your friends and seeing who was going where when. You can get a ride in as little as 10 minutes.

In practice, it seems that dynamic ridesharing has not yet found a critical mass of users to make it truly successful in the US, but this may no longer be true by the time you read this.


Ridesharing Software & Other Resources

Avego Shared Transport — "real-time carpooling for the iPhone generation." Reputed to be the most advanced dynamic ridesharing software; definitely seems to be well thought out, and automates just about everything. Probably will take off when smart phone market penetration is higher and monthly connection fees lower (you need an iphone to be driver, but you can be a passenger with a regular phone). Well worth checking out their vision for the future of ridesharing.

The AvegoTM Shared Transport iPhone application, a free download from iTunes, enables private vehicles to become part of the public transport network by providing a marketplace for drivers to offer their unused seats to others in real time. Using iPhone GPS technology, the system has full knowledge of each driver's location and the route they are currently traveling. When a rider searches for a ride, using the iPhone app, web interface or SMS, they are instantly matched with any driver currently running the iPhone app along the same route. The cost of the journey is automatically and fairly calculated and charged to the rider, providing drivers with an easy way to save money on their commute and providing riders with a flexible and affordable alternative to public transport.

Zimride — Zimride provides well-designed rideshare systems that help build trust and a critical mass of users. Combining Google Maps, optional social network integration and a proprietary ride-matching algorithm Zimride is enabling partner universities and corporations to offer their community a reliable transportation option.

Traffic Solutions — SB area ridesharing database

Ridematching Systems — list of carpooling systems from the University of South Florida


Walk & Roll — Walk, bike, take the bus, or carpool to & resources; walking schoolbuses, bike trains...


Transportation energy plan for Santa Barbara (scroll down page) — From the community Environmental council:

Ridesharing, More Efficient Vehicles, Biofuels, Buses and Public Transit, Bicycles and Electric Bicycles, Electric Vehicles and Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles, Flexible Work Arrangements, Building Livable Communities, Regional Commuter Rail, True Cost Pricing for Transportation, Facilitators and Enhancers, Natural Gas and Hydrogen Cars





Further reading


The Way of the Bicycle (book in progress)


Anti-car raves

Pro-bicycle raves

A collection of letters to editor and politicians about making the world a better place with bicycle-friendly policy. Many of them but not all are Santa Barbara County focused.

Bike links & Resources • Copyright © Art Ludwig 1997–2018 • Content Use Policy • Copyright © Art Ludwig 1997–2018 • Content Use Policy