Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Ride Sharing Advice for Cities & Others


Benefits


  • Very fuel-efficient means of motorized transport (very high passenger miles to the gallon)

  • Reduces congestion (time, excess fuel costs and emissions, reduced highway and road infrastructure)

  • Reduces parking demand

  • Leverages the existing investment in rolling stock(cars) paid for by people themselves, and existing road and parking infrastructure

  • Solution to the very difficult problem of providing affordable high quality HOV/transit services in low density geographies.

  • Can be implemented immediately.
Define ridesharing at state (and federal) level

A definition protects ridesharing, and makes sure that it is not confused with other transportation services that carry specific insurance, licensing, or zoning requirements. Here is one possibility that seems to capture the essential issues, adapted from SECTION 3. 10–4–707.5 (2), Colorado Revised Statutes

“Ridesharing” means the vehicular transportation of passengers traveling together with a commonality of route or destination (e.g. work, shopping, health, educational, religious, athletic, sports facilities, leisure, or any destinations) if the vehicle used in such transportation is not operated for profit by an entity primarily engaged in the transportation business and if no charge is made therefore other than that reasonably calculated to recover the direct and indirect costs of the “ridesharing” including, but not limited to, a reasonable incentive to encourage accommodation of the needs of the elderly or disabled. However, nothing in this subsection (2) shall be construed as excluding from this definition an arrangement by an employer engaged in the transportation business who provides "ridesharing arrangements" for its employees. The term includes ridesharing arrangements commonly known as carpools and vanpools.

Ensure no ambiguity in state car insurance requirements
  • Make sure that state car insurance policies cover everyone in the car if trip meets ridesharing definition (already happening with most insurance policies but definition at federal level of ridesharing would make this reality more easily defensible if challenged).
  • Protect companies that broker ridesharing from liability stemming from what happens on the ride between riders (driver and passengers).
Enable ridesharing to accommodate giving rides to elderly and disabled
  • Allow for additional modest fees to incent driver (owner of vehicle) to offer ridesharing with the elderly or disabled up to $x per person/ride (could be included in the definition) and make sure that such fees are allowable under definition of ridesharing and do not abrogate “ridesharing” definitions in insurance policies.
  • Protect these drivers from liability if elderly or disabled injured in ways not covered by their personal car insurance.
Make sure that tax incentives offered for commuter benefits include ridesharing

“Change Section 132(f) of the Federal tax code to include carpooling/ridesharing. This section enables employers to underwrite the cost of their employees' transit or vanpool commutes, up to $110 - and offset qualified parking expenses up to $215 - per employee, per month. These benefits are not considered taxable income for the employee, and employers may write off these costs as a transportation expense.

Alternatively, employer may allow employees to set aside pre-tax dollars to purchase transit passes, pay vanpool fares, and to cover qualified parking costs. Pre-tax set-asides are subject to the same monthly limits.”
  • Make benefits for going in high occupancy vehicles (HOV) equal to that of traveling in single occupancy vehicles (SOV). i.e. the parking benefits should not exceed those allocated for transit, vanpool, or ride sharing. In fact, incentives should be reversed. [Better would be make parking ineligible for this program.]
  • Best would be to make all ridesharng – not just for commutes -- costs to be tax deductible (with documention).
  • Ridesharing expenses have traditionally not been included because of perceived lack of ability to monitor and provide proof that the ride was shared. Change laws tso that those who can provide third-party documentation that ride was shared and expenses incurred can also participate in the program, just like any other tax deduction requiring a receipt.
Support one ride-sharing program online

This is difficult for me to say, as a provider of an online ridesharing service (www.GoLoco.org), but I believe it is true. In order for ride sharing to be successful, it needs a critical mass of postings within a specific geographic area. Institutions, universities, “green” websites, cities, and states that promote “carpooling” and don’t tell you where to go are just not very helpful to prospective carpoolers. And promoting a large number of sites will just result in any one site not having very much traffic, again, a disservice to people who actually are trying to share rides.

So what can be done to preserve competition, allow for the best services to rise to the top, and still make sure that only one database/service is being promoted on any given website?
  • Choose one provider based on some known standards: (ability to make end users happy; trust mechanisms, ability to transfer money, website ease of use, audit trail of shared rides, protection of privacy, ease of communications between travelers, successful matches, etc.) and give them the contract/right to be listed for 1-2 years.
  • Be willing to change who you support based on transparent metrics. If another company is doing a better job, switch who you promote.
  • Require that the database/service you do market is “scrapable” by other ride-sharing companies. i.e. rides posted into that database would be accessible by all ride-sharing companies and available for matches within their own databases.
This system gives the maximum benefit to people who want to share rides. They can choose services that suit their particular needs, or that have successful marketed themselves, and get access to the rides posted on the state or city-supported service.

Set-aside carpool parking locations

Ideally, we want the carpool parking spaces to be the most desirable ones (even more desirable than car-sharing parking spaces). Anyone who carpools – regardless of company used to match the service – should be able to park in these spaces. I envision this sort of like credit card companies. “Reserved, Carpools. Accepted: GoLoco, etc.” To get onto the sign, perhaps the company has to meet some standard. To park at the sign, drivers would have to put a print-out of their matched trip on their dashboard with date, time, etc. readable from someone outside the car. I don’t believe an attendant actually has to monitor who parks here on a regular basis, but the ability to “audit” and fine people who shouldn’t park there is now overt and possible.

Is this a double standard? Online the city, company needs to choose one company, but on the street, several are supported? This allows for competitors to play, and if the city hasn’t chosen the best provider, the best provider can succeed and rise to the top.


In some locations – park and ride lots for example – these signs might say “carpool parking only, until 9:30am.” This way, if no one is carpooling, these spaces are available after peak demand.

4 comments:

Chris Bradshaw said...

Making some parking spots 'special' and free creates problems with policing, and ignores the fact that ridesharing, although superior to SOV use, is inferior to walking, cycling, transit, taxi, and (as far as parking is concerned) being dropped off (a form of ridesharing, after all).

All parking should be charged for (a la Donald Shoup's "The High Cost of Free Parking" premise), with spots closer to entrances/destinations being more expensive. Such high value spots will actually be more valuable to a car with several passengers, since the total walking time from car to destination is on a per-rider basis, while the cost of parking is on a per-vehicle basis (which the sharers will share).

Chris Bradshaw
Ottawa

Emma said...

I'm having a battle with trying to get all our car pool org's on side. They have difficulty seeing how they can make money out of this idea which requires them to move from a commercial operation to a non-profit one. Any suggestions on how to get them on board?

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