The Pooling Imperative

August, 2022

As we all strive to develop strong measures to combat climate change, it appears our greatest challenge is identifying near-term actions that can produce meaningful results. Near-term actions can have the greatest cumulative impact on climate change. 

In the transportation realm, most climate action plans are medium-term or longer-term. However, a critical action that can produce substantial near-term emissions reductions has been "hiding in plain sight”: trip-pooling (carpools and vanpools).

Carpooling is not new; organized carpooling initiatives date back to World-War II. Although the carpool mode-share has gradually declined over several decades - as has the mode share of public transit - it is the #2 work travel mode in the United States (after drive-alone) with 10% of trips, the #2 mode in New Zealand at 8% of work trips, and the #5 mode in Germany at 8%. Carpool members include co-workers, family members, neighbors, and others. Arrangements are flexible. Carpools can operate full-time or part-time, and pickup or meeting points are decided by participants.

Vanpooling has a strong, 45-year history. Vanpools cater to longer-distance commute trips (20-100 miles each way), so on average solo drivers changing to a vanpool reduce about 70 vehicle-miles of emissions daily. Vanpools can consist of 7 to 15 people, with schedules and routes set by members.

Trip-pooling produces social and personal benefits beyond emissions reductions. Reduced local air pollution and traffic congestion are clear examples. For poolers there are parking-cost savings plus reduced or eliminated auto ownership, operating, and maintenance costs. Many poolers also enjoy time savings by using dedicated high occupancy vehicle lanes.

New research-based four page summary (pdf) of "Why We Need More Carpools & Vanpools" by The Ridesharing Institute Board of Directors.

Organized efforts to increase trip-pooling have existed for decades for many reasons, achieving desired results at a very low cost per person-mile. Financial and organizational support came from employers and governments at all levels. Now, urgency resulting from changing climate, plus new technology options and new incentive structures, point to increasing focus and social investment on trip-pooling.

In preparing for the post-COVID, emissions constrained world, the urgent mission of The Pooling Imperative is to catalyze action by jurisdictions and agencies to achieve a step-change in the amount of trip-pooling. The time for action is now.

What YOU can do:

Please send an email to us with your ideas, comments, or criticism about pooling, and particularly indicate if we can use your name as a supporter of The Pooling Imperative.

What WE are doing:

We are developing a strategy and seeking funding support to advocate for more pooling, both short and long term. We expect to develop services for jurisdictions and agencies to help them understand the potential for pooling in their region, and to help them put policies in place to encourage growth.

In the short term we are curating existing resources that might help jurisdictions and agencies get started. This website will provide links to a broad range of relevant projects, papers, articles, and reports. This is a work in progress. In the meantime, if you were to read only one or two such resources, we would recommend:

"The Benefits of Carpooling: The Environmental and Economic Value of Sharing A Ride," by Shaheen, Cohen, and Bayen, 2018. This paper reviews over 80 pooling-related reports and papers written between 1979 and 2018 and presents their findings in an easily accessible format.

"Saving Oil in a Hurry 2018," by the International Energy Agency, (IEA) 2018. This report identifies and evaluates rapid demand restraint measures for transport, and finds that a combination of large car-pooling programs and odd/even day driving bans could reduce oil consumption by more than two million barrels per day across IEA member countries. Pages 22-24 have the key details.

" If the question is how to ameliorate traffic congestion, the answer is pooling. If it’s how to reduce climate change, still pooling. Social equity? Also pooling. Soaring transportation infrastructure costs? Pooling! What to do about the potential negative effects of automated vehicles (AVs)? Pooling. Going forward, pooling must be the principal focus of our thinking and actions related to transportation."
from: Three Revolutions: Steering Automated, Shared, and Electric Vehicles to a Better Future, Island Press, 2018, edited by Dan Sperling

The Pooling Imperative is a project of The Ridesharing Institute,
a 501c3 non-profit organization
 

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