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Opinion Piece


“When I look at the flow of traffic, I see a flow of drivers, and I know that with a little effort more of them could have been passengers”


96 million worker-drivers. The cars so empty, the roads so full. The number of empty seats seems like a real opportunity for ITS professionals to accomplish their goals by thinking differently about the problem.


SHARING THE BURDEN I am the chairman of the Ridesharing Institute. Our goal is to double ridesharing worldwide in this decade: In the USA that would take the commuter passengership rate (the rate at which road-based commuters travel as passengers) from about 9.6 per cent as it is now and improve it to above the 17 per cent (4.6 per cent bus, 12.3 per cent c/v) that it was back in 1980. I co-founded the Ridesharing Institute because I thought


an organization was needed that would focus entirely on filling empty seats, with urgency. It seems obvious to our Institute that many metrics from traffic congestion to air quality to energy consumption to quality of life could be improved by increasing the rate of passengership, and at far lower capital and operating cost than any alternative. One of the key challenges for the Ridesharing Institute is


that we do not yet have an answer to ‘how to double pas- sengership’. We have lots of examples of failed experiments, and some public and private interests are testing out new ideas but the early results are not promising. We are sure a greater policy focus will make a difference (policy makers please note), but most importantly we think more research and coordinated, sustained experimentation is needed. The solution, when it is found, might go well beyond technical gadgetry, but it is hard to imagine it will not have some ITS- style technology involved. Here are some ideas that might help increase the number


of trips where people are passengers rather than drivers, some of which are very much in the realm of ITS applica- tions that readers of this magazine could help develop.


TRAVELLER INFORMATION, FOR EXAMPLE Much traveler information either broadcasts the current state of the traffic or predicts what the traffic will do in the next little while. Very like a weather forecast. If you believe the weatherman when he says it will rain, you might stay


Europe/Rest of the World Vol 8 No 3 thinkinghighways.com 53


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