How to favor higher car occupancy

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1 How to favor higher car occupancy August 2005 Original in Italian 1

2 How to favor higher car occupancy Introduction A gypsy car service is largely used in Moscow and other Russian towns by both local residents and visitors. In Moscow, it is very simple to get a ride in this unofficial taxi market. As a ride is needed, Muscovites simply wave at any car as if the cars were all cabs on duty. It is a kind of hitch hiking, except that you pay (rather cheap) for the ride after having bargained with the driver. Foreigners are amazed to see how many cars stop offering rides as soon as someone raises their hands. Generally, only old cars stop, but in some case you may get a ride in a fancy new car driven by a chauffeur who wants to make some extra money while traveling without the owner. You usually do not wait for more than a minute. Sometimes you immediately catch more than one offer. As you negotiate the itinerary and the price with the driver of the first car that stopped, others drivers may stop and wait patiently in line hoping your negotiations were unsuccessful. Some drivers cruise around the city in order to find customers and consider this as a real job or at least a second job. Still, most of them are ordinary travelers who want to make some extra money or even like to have some company while commuting. Foreigners are mainly surprised by the confidence people show accepting a ride by a stranger. Of course, they are also surprised how the drivers can dare to let anybody in their cars. Moscow is a huge metropolis that nobody perceives as the safest and relaxed place in the world. Would something similar be conceivable in New York? Or in any other big city? Probably not. Then, the relevant question is: why and how this surprising system works? Besides many local cultural reasons, the system in Moscow is mainly based on trust and need. The system developed after the fall of Communism and the paramount increase in private car ownership. We could analyze and argue a lot about the reasons and the conditions that made the system work. Nonetheless it is much more interesting to describe: (1) why this system can inspire traffic policies in other cities and (2) how the conditions that allow the system work can be created. 2

3 WHAT IS? is a simple and very effective system to limit car circulation in urban areas. The basic idea is to encourage higher car occupancy. It is an evolution of the largely adopted, but not very successful, car-pool and/or car-sharing systems. The design of is very simple from a technical point of view. It requires a project designed by a sociologist, an engineer specialized in telecommunication and a traffic (civil) engineer. The whole project, however, requires good organization, economic and social research, and includes a professional communication campaign. Moreover, being new and innovative, the designers must be prepared to adjust the project during the design phase and implementation. THE EXPECTED EFFECTS OF ON TRAFFIC POLICY is effective because it: increases car occupancy reduces the number of the vehicles circulating does not substantially affect (reduce) the overall mobility supply enhances travelers satisfaction can be integrated with other traffic policies reduces parking demand reduces public transit overcrowding during rush hours 3

4 WHAT CAN BE ACCOMPLISHED WITH? has the same effects of car-pooling: allows the cars with more than two riders to use reserved lanes and to have access to Limited Traffic Zones (LTZ) allows cars with more than two riders to circulate when traffic limitations measures (usually caused by air pollution) are applied facilitates public authorities to enforce stricter traffic limitation measures which can be applied more extensively in time and space facilitates streamlines toll application and access to city centers WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE WITH CAR-POOLING? The difference with car-pooling is the way how cars are filled, i.e. how travelers get rides and drivers offer rides. The main problem with car pooling is its lack of flexibility, which mainly affects the passengers. Passengers and drivers must agree before leaving home and use the telephone or internet to match their scheduled rides. In order to favor higher car occupancy (i.e. in order to find extra passengers to one driver s car) the traffic authority designs the following system: Drivers must be encouraged to spontaneously offer rides to whoever asks for them 1 Commuters and travelers must be encouraged to ask for rides instead of using their own car 2 1 Some people are compulsory drivers; others cannot help using their car for some good reasons. Consequently, it is likely that there will always be a ride supply. 2 Many people might: dislike driving, wanting to save money, and preferring not to take a bus or public transportation which moreover might not be available in time and space, etc. Consequently, it is likely there will always be a demand for rides. 4

5 HOW CAN IT HAPPEN? The potential passenger put their thumb out and hitch-hikes. To allow for traffic safety, the Traffic Authority can mildly regulate the system without losing flexibility, e.g. by providing pick-up points or areas. HOW CAN IT BE CONVENIENT FOR THE DRIVER? The person who decides to drive their car must find good value in offering a ride to other travelers. The driver of the car with more than one (or two 3 ) riders should be put in the condition of saving on road tolls which can be multiplied, saving on parking fees using reserved lanes and having access to TLZ, which can also be multiplied and enlarged driving when traffic limitations are enforced as it often happens because (mainly) air pollution possibly benefiting from an economic incentive apt to cover at least part of car operating costs Moreover the driver might like to share some company and meet up with new people during their trip. 3 Some research and specific further design is necessary to make the system fit to the local situations. E.g., having two riders (besides the driver) in the car might offer extra incentives, even though it might make the system more complex. 5

6 HOW CAN IT BE CONVENIENT FOR THE OCCASIONAL TRAVELERS AND/OR THE REGULAR COMMUTERS? The system must be convenient also for the rider. As a matter of fact, if a good balance between ride demand and supply is created, the system is very flexible and efficient as: The possible passenger may wave at any car and get a ride whenever and wherever in the city The possible passenger may like to share some company and meet up with new people during their trips The possible passenger does not have to wait for a bus and/or can try POLI- CAR while waiting for it The possible passenger does not have parking problems HOW CAN IT BE CONVENIENT FOR THE TRAFFIC AUTHORITY? The traffic authority can easily create a good value without a significant investment. As a matter of fact, an investment is justified by the interest of: having less traffic, generating less pollution, saving in road and parking construction and maintenance, saving in (often subsidized) public transportation The Traffic Authority can multiply access and turnpikes tolls and in general increase (or establish) road prices for one-driver cars 4. 4 In case, also for all the cars, based on the possibility that the passengers and the drivers are encouraged to share road prices. 6

7 POSSIBLE PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS Security How secure can a system be in which you let a stranger into your car or, vice versa, you step into a car driven by a stranger? Potentially this is the major problem for many drivers and passengers. The system can easily be made more secure if both drivers and passengers use a viable identification network. Prima facie, the steps to join and organize the system might be as follow: people are invited to register at the Traffic Authority office for the office registers the identity of the member (both car drivers and possible passengers), and provides the driver with a bumper stick (or similar identification) to be applied to the car the same person can apply as a driver, as a passenger or (more advantageously) as both also the office provides an ID to be displayed in the car and/or to be exhibited under request the passenger who enters the car will feel more secure knowing the driver s name and registration number moreover they can contact (or in case send an automatic SMS) a call center, established by the Traffic Authority, letting it know that they got a ride from the registered person whose code number that they must be able to provide the driver is supposed to do the same, i.e. sending an SMS with the passenger s code number POSSIBLE PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS Matching Demand and Supply and Economic Incentives Informing the Traffic Authority s call center has a twofold goal: security and data collection to monitor the system. The system must be accurately monitored in order to make ride demand and supply adequately match. We assume that the goal of is reducing the number of circulating vehicles by increasing car occupancy. 7

8 In a first phase, it is possible that fewer people are available to offer a ride versus the ones who want to take it. Passengers asking for rides will likely be the ones who are already familiar with using public transportation. Beyond the general efficiency of the system, extra incentives for users can be: free bus tickets free parking bonuses discounts other They can be awarded according to the data collected by the automatic call center monitoring system. Privacy consideration should not be difficult because the system is based on voluntary acceptance of the rules. The ride is supposed to be offered without any charge for the passenger. As a matter of fact, the Traffic Authority is supposed to create the conditions to make the ride offer convenient to the driver. In a second phase, depending on the results of the first tests, passengers might be asked to contribute to the driver expenses. EVOLUTIONS The system will work at its best when participants will be open to offer and to ask for rides exempt from bureaucracy, registration, incentives, etc. The dimensions of the external identification tag (the bumper sticker) should to be small. This is in order: to encourage possible passengers to ask every circulating car for rides to advertise the system 8

9 CONCLUSION has to be considered as a ground breaking idea to be adapted to local situations. The success of system depends on social and physical factors such as the availability of people to relate with others and the city layout. Besides the practicality of the system, whose main goal is traffic reduction, POLI- CAR also implies a concern for a more open society and for people willing to cooperate and interact. can be applied at City, County or State level. 9

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