The traffic gridlock is as much a part of the morning commute as the coffee in your cup holder. Solitary drivers in almost every car are clogging the asphalt arteries, where the carpool lanes are mostly reserved for those reckless enough to use it as a passing lane. Improving public transit, such as bus and rail, has been the traditional answer to the problem. However, because these systems require a large commitment of public funds they rarely receive the green light. That’s why tech firms are stepping in to attempt solutions for our swollen roadways.
Enter, ride share. Ride share matches drivers with passengers heading to similar destinations in order to optimize routes by decreasing the amount of trips a driver has to take. This allows more passengers to be served, pulls more drivers off the road which in turn reduces traffic congestion and reduces the carbon footprint. Companies such as Uber and Lyft have launched this concept in larger cities. The question becomes whether or not these services have the strength to supplement the lack of public transit services or at least help shift how commuters think about getting from one place to another.
The strength of ride share is that it builds upon existing structures and an existing concept: carpooling. The success of ride share depends entirely upon the amount of people who decide to use it. The more people looking for rides, the more drivers the program can support. This translates into fewer cars on the road and a shorter commute.
Ride share can be compared to taking a bus in that your liable to be along for a few stops, but because of fewer passengers there are fewer stops. Both options still have to confront the problem of the swollen roads. And if not everyone is riding a bus or using ride share, the traffic problem still continues. Whereas, a train in a city is not confined to the road conditions. But, because of this it requires its own infrastructure which in most cases doesn’t exist and is too expensive.
Whether or not people will use a ride share service depends on its cost-effectiveness and its convenience. When taking transit, a passenger is sacrificing independence. The tradeoff has to be that it’s simply cheaper, quicker, and less stressful. Using Uber or Lyft for ride share are convenient because they’re already on your phone and the driver comes to you when you need them. Presumably, a shared ride should be cheaper because you’re subsidizing the cost with other passengers. The problem that persists is the elephant in the room: traffic.
Living in an area that doesn’t have a developed and reliable form of public transportation means that most likely commuters will own cars, out of necessity. The result is that only those that cannot afford cars are using transit. The quality of the transit will then reflect the type amount of patrons they can attract meaning that expansion and improvement is impossible if these transit systems have to look to state and city budgets for subsidies. This means less passengers are capable of paying for higher quality transportation, outside of already owning their own. So, it seems ride share as a business model seems to depend on the success of other forms of public transit to make it a tenable program. However, some companies like Ridesurf are expanding the ride sharing concept beyond the potholes of the city limits.
Ridesurf specializes in long distance ride sharing. It operates sort of like a blend between an Uber or Lyft and Tinder’s friendship equivalent: Tinder social. It brings together people who are all heading to the same location, like a music festival, in order to cut down on cars traveling long distances. This benefits drivers who can subsidize their trip by filling their empty seats, and it benefits passengers who appreciate shedding the stress of driving. At an advertised price of only $25 for a 250 miles trip, it seems as though it could appease both parties.
Where ride sharing seems to fall short in more congested areas, Ridesurf has the potential to thrive. Urban rideshare suffers from its inability to translate into a quicker commute. Ridesurf is not necessarily quicker, but because it is long distnace travel the potential for crowded road conditions is much lower. Without that limiting impediment, it manages to meet the goal of removing cars from the road. The benefit could be that the more passengers and drivers that have a positive experience from this sort of travel, the more people will change their minds about how they make their commute.