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SF to Silicon Valley via transfer hub - system concept

TITLE: SF to Silicon Valley Instant Ridesharing with San Bruno Transfer Hub

ABSTRACT: A concept of operations is provided for an innovative instant ridesharing service to exploit the large San Francisco (SF) Bay Area major employer commuter flow from SF to Silicon Valley. While the concept of filling empty seats in cars seems obvious, 15 previous dynamic/instant ridesharing pilots have failed to develop critical mass. The proposed service differs from past attempts as follows:
*  It targets a large commuter flow vector rather than a two-dimensional area, resulting in a higher probability of ridematches.
* It uses a mid-commute transfer hub to further increase ridematching probabilities.
* It offers a viable business model providing $40 per day per commuter cost savings to Silicon Valley employers.
* It uses psychological persuasion principles to obtain higher participant commitment.
* It uses daily financial incentives to motivate participants.
* Via extensive participant training, it emphasizes immediate high system utilization on the first day of operation.

With traditional carpools, members are selected and then the carpool proceeds most weekdays for months without change. With dynamic ridesharing (DRS), one-time carpools are arranged within 3 days of the trip. With new GPS cellphone technology (Apple iPhone & Google Android T-Mobile phones), "instant ridesharing" (IRS) is enabled, where one-time rides are arranged within minutes of the start of the trip. With IRS, a person may carpool every day, but with the flexibility of a different departure time and group of people each day. IRS can handle schedule variations in a manner that makes transportation routine and hassle-free. IRS works best when back-up public transportation is available.

About 10% of US commuters carpool, but 80% of these are "fampools," carpools where members all live in the same home. The increased flexibility provided by instant ridesharing creates the opportunity to entice a very significant number of single occupancy vehicle commuters into carpooling. Every minute, there is a "river of empty seats" created by cars driving down the road. The idea of filling up empty seats to reduce traffic and CO2 emissions is somewhat obvious. In 2008 alone, seven organizations independently "invented" some variation of DRS/IRS.

While the DRS concept of filling empty seats is obvious, successful implementation is not obvious. 15 past DRS pilot attempts have failed. Goose Networks is one of many such examples. Goose won a $111,000 Washington State Department of Transportation Trip Reduction Performance Program grant. Goose delivered 322 rides over 2 years, at a cost of $345 per ride. In the San Francisco Bay Area, RideNow could only register 12 out of 3,000 West Oakland Station BART commuters, so recruiting failed, causing a pilot to be cancelled. IRS serves as an improvement to DRS, utilizing new GPS smartphones, text messaging, internet sites and social networking to improve the user travel experience.

IRS/DRS software offerings include: Avego (see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgTNK85bG_k), ZimRide, Goose Networks, Carticipate, Piggyback, NuRide, and Google RideFinder.

The benefit or utility of travel is a function of [travel time, travel cost, travel experience (hassle, stress, comfort, entertainment value), parking hassle, parking cost, reliability.] When the utility of solo commuting is less than the utility of carpooling, carpooling thrives. For SF Bay Bridge "casual carpooling," commuters save 15 minutes of time and a $5 bridge toll. Washington DC slug-lines also feature higher utility for carpooling versus driving alone. Casual carpooling represents the "perfect storm" for carpool utility advantage, but there are very, very few places where carpooling utility is even close to solo commuting utility. Financial incentives can close the utility gap between carpooling/IRS and solo commuting.

Full concept paper: http://www.cities21.org/TRB_SFtoSJ_iPooling_with_Hub.pdf (2MB)

San Bruno Avenue Hub Details: http://www.cities21.org/sf_to_SV_hub.htm