The Auckland Regional Transport Authority has released a draft  plan which includes $400,000 for a three-year trial of an innovative car pooling system being developed by Trip Convergence Ltd.

In the proposed car pooling system, members with a common destination walk, cycle or drive to a nearby parking facility and form fuller cars to their destination. Typical destinations will be downtown areas, university districts, an airport or another high employment area. The system has as its base operating principle the idea that schedule flexibility is the key to more ride sharing, and that means ‘no pre-arranging’.

This removes the main barrier to greater levels of ride sharing: because people have unique and changing schedules and so cannot be committed to a regular car pool schedule. The proposed system makes the schedule a non-issue.

It is intended provides a convenient, cost saving and environmentally friendly choice for  people who are driving alone but who wouldn’t mind sharing a ride if it was convenient to do so.

The system has similarities to a casual car-pooling system which has been operating in San Francisco for more than thirty years.  In San Francisco, some 6,000 people get rides each day with people they have not met before. Over the years, the casual car pool system has provided about 40 million rides and has proven to be a very safe way of getting to work. There are no official reports of any of the type of horror stories that people might imagine. In the Auckland proposal, the membership system will mean that all participants will be identified, providing a further level of safety.

Trip Convergence Ltd is also seeking to secure additional benefits for participants, such as transit lanes for high occupancy vehicles and benefits from employers for staff who participate in car pools.