Tranzwatching trends in social transport, NZ and USA
The possibility offered by various social media to link up those seeking a ride, or seeking to share driving between days with other car owners, is leading to a major growth in carpooling groups in New Zealand and elsewhere.
It is an exciting use of technology towards sustainable goals for all parties and in some circumstances could have significant impacts upon congestion, roading costs, traffic management strategies and - for better or worse - public transport usage.
Organised carpooling has potential to become a major form of socialised transport, particularly from dispersed rural fringes of cities and towns, where organised carpool systems will usually be more effective than bus services.
Carpooling may be competitive with bus services (if they exist) undermining a fragile patronage base. Carpooling may also foster public transport by getting potential passengers to hub points or offering a one way alternative, when the departure time needs of rider/driver match only traveling one direction.
Using media to match riders with drivers, the potential also exists to widen the scope by organised drop-off/pick-up points at public transport hubs, in cases where not all passengers travel tofro the same points in the city. There is also potential for public transport authorities to ensure all carpoolers in any given area are also offered current public transport info pertaining to the area.
Every transport system that increases options makes leaving the private car at home (or doing so most days in a turns about ride sharing situation) more viable. On a larger conceptual plane it breaks the idea that the private car journey (alone) is always the best option for every function - to create sustainable transport for the future means to offer a raft of different ways of getting moving people and things, many of these barely developed or integrated as yet.
Transport planners in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and the Bay of Plenty are amongst those already recognising the useful role carpooling can play.
Recently US transit site The Transport Politic discussed some of the issues carpooling raises for public transport in general, with reference to the US situation (though interestingly a Kiwi carpool advocate appears in the course of this article).
Of particular interest, I find, is the casual car pool system operating in San Francisco referred to in The Transport politic. Creating the same HOV "three persons or more"per vehicle ruling for lanes and even segregated sections of specifically built roading, could also be used to win political approval and funding for a substantial increase in bus lanes, and queue jumper lanes and traffic light priority signals.