Sunday, July 16, 2006

Would Americans car-pool for $1/mile?

One well known way to conserve gas is to car-pool. The obvious time to car-pool is to and from work. Unfortunately most people don't. I'm sure there are a million different reasons why, but I'll bet that at the center of everyone of these is a kernel of selfishness--I want to come and go as I please. I understand and I'm partially sympathetic to this standpoint. Nevertheless, this form of selfishness should be easily overcome with the proper incentive.

I propose a $1/mile car-pool incentive. Assuming an average daily commute is 25 miles (12.5 miles each way), this would cost $125/car-pooler/week a.k.a. $6,250 per car-pooler/year. The commuters with the longest distance to drive would have the greatest incentive to car-pool (thereby saving the most gas) so the actual per car-pooler cost might be skewed a bit higher. Split that 50-50 between driver and passenger and each gets an extra $3k/yr (not counting the money saved from not driving & parking etc).

How many people would go for this? 5%? 10%? 20%?

The best way to find out is to try it. The idea can be implemented on almost any scale (from mom and pop to multinational business; from local township to statewide policy). If 10% signed up, this incentive would cost $300 per employee.

Although it is rare, my city has good public transportation options, so I would try to offer equivalent incentives to workers to take public transportation (by for example offering several free monthly passes/yr to workers not in the car-pool program).

If your company/city has already tried something similar, tell me how it worked. Please feel free to throw this idea into the next public/private suggestion box you see.

Edit 7/17: One could start with a smaller incentive ($0.25/mile) to work out any kinks.


At 12:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It isn't selfishness that keeps people from carpooling; it is a simple cost/benefit analysis. Carpooling has no value if it does not reduce the number of car-miles or the amount of fuel consumed. In fact, carpooling is often of limited value for either of those, because of the extra driving required to get the pool together and drop the participants off at their various destinations. In the process, the carpoolers' time is wasted, negating the point of reducing congestion, and the driving saved tends to be freeway miles, which cost the least fuel. It requires a lot of freeway miles to make up for the extra driving at each end to assemble and distribute the carpoolers. The better approach is to work on the root problem: people having widely dispersed destinations for work, home and play. Bringing the destination to the starting point eliminates the trip entirely. Note that in your scheme to bribe people to carpool, the ones who arrange to have no commute at all get no reward.

At 1:35 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

Last point first: I specifically suggested that workers who are not in the car pool program be given something equivalent like a few free monthly bus/metro passes (for localities that offer public transport). And if you have no commute, isn't that reward enough?

You are right that if the average car pooler has to drive 6 or more miles out of their way to pick-up their car-pool buddy, the savings disappear. I figured people would employ common sense, but a couple limits could be enacted. Like set a 2.5 mile (or 20% of trip) excursion distance limit on who can count in a car pool.

And who performs the cost/benefit analysis?
Self <----


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