Parking and Transportation

Let's Share a Ride: Promoting Carpooling on Campus

When students, faculty or staff carpool, the end result is less congestion on campus roads and a greener campus. The key to promoting carpooling is in your students’ hands.

One of the most vexing challenges facing college and university planners is congestion on campus roadways. Crowded roads are less safe, with the risk of accidents escalating the more congested they are; less convenient, particularly during peak travel hours at the beginning and end of the school day; and much less healthy and environmentally friendly, as vehicles unnecessarily discharge exhaust into the atmosphere.

For all of these reasons, colleges and universities spend considerable money and countless staff hours developing and implementing transportation plans promoting alternative modes of transportation to and from campus. These plans have traditionally revolved around shuttle bus services, but they can include scooter and bicycle facilities and connections to municipal transit infrastructure.

Another strategy that could make a difference for colleges and universities is carpooling. When students, faculty or staff carpool, the end result is less congestion on campus roads and a greener campus. Promoting carpooling can also reduce future capital costs by decreasing the amount of parking that’s required on campus and eliminating, or at least delaying, the need to build new parking. And it also benefits students by eliminating a number of costs associated with driving to campus, including gas and parking costs, not to mention wear and tear on their vehicles.

In fact, many campuses are already promoting carpooling to reduce congestion, but with limited success. The problem arises from the nature of carpooling itself. Typically, carpools develop organically among friends who are traveling to similar destinations. When we think of carpools, we think of people driving to the office together, or parents driving the neighborhood kids to school, or parents driving teammates to practice or a game. Universities don’t necessarily adhere to this dynamic. How likely is it that friends who commute to school will have the same classes at the same time? So how can you create a safe, convenient environment for students to carpool who don’t know each other?

The answer can be found in technology. Ridesharing technology can dynamically match drivers with riders and vet all of the participants for safety. Ridesharing apps make it attractive and easy to carpool by focusing on the driver’s, the riders’ and the organization’s needs.

Trust, Safety and Reliability
One of the biggest advantages a ridesharing app can provide is reliability. If you want to shift people out of their own vehicles, there are two primary concerns: trust and safety. If there’s no transparency built into the app to establish trust between drivers and riders, or if the driver or rider is concerned about his or her personal safety, you’ll never shift behavior and convert users.

When it comes to safety, a ridesharing app must have an established vetting process to assure that none of the participants pose a safety risk to the driver or fellow passengers. Drivers and passengers need to be vetted, and universities need to insist upon clearly defined liability and driver requirements, including driving history, insurance and payments in case of defaults. As a rule, carpooling is covered by typical auto insurance.

Ridesharing on Campus

Shutterstock: Andrey_Popov

Likewise, reliability is vital. Riders need to be able to determine where their pick-up point will be. People will be less likely to use a ridesharing app if they are forced to go to a predetermined pick-up spot. At the same time, drivers need assurances that they can continue their trip if a rider isn’t where he or she is supposed to be picked up, without being penalized for being a no-show. Finally, there should be a guarantee in place that the rider won’t be penalized — staff and faculty won’t be held responsible for being late to work and students won’t be disciplined for being late to class — if the driver doesn’t show up.

The second consideration in establishing a ridesharing program is convenience. In fact, surveys show that convenience is the number-one reason for commuters to switch from one form of mobility to another.

For drivers, convenience revolves round having a quick and easy way to find riders for the commute and clear confirmation of who to pick up, and who not to pick up. The app must also have accurate wayfinding to each pickup location and/or the ability to set predefined pickup locations for riders.

For riders, convenience revolves around having a quick and easy way to find drivers. The app should also offer a combination of pre-defined pickup points and the ability for the rider to determine where he or she would like to be picked up. The best apps also provide the opportunity for riders to select their favorite drivers, alerts when the driver is approaching the pickup point, and the ability to establish recurring rides. Also, return bookings should be offered at the time of the initial booking to assure that a rider is never stranded.

For the university, convenience revolves around being able to easily approve new drivers and riders as they join the program. The app provider should also provide onboarding documentation and/or training sessions. Universities should also be given direct access to the technology to add and remove employees from the program. Finally, real-time utilization data should be available so university administrators can manage the program more effectively.

Parking can make or break a ridesharing program. In fact, convenience is the only factor that’s more important. People won’t use the program if it isn’t easy to quickly find parking once the carpooling vehicle reaches the campus. At the same time, by promoting carpooling and rightsizing parking, universities can increase the utilization of parking resources. Offering integrated parking incentives to carpoolers can be a particularly effective strategy for promoting carpooling, and has been shown to triple the rates of carpooling at universities.

There are a number of parking-related perks that can promote carpooling. For instance, depending on the parking facility and availability of parking on campus, carpool drivers can be offered discounted parking rates or even complimentary parking, a guaranteed space in high-demand parking facilities, and/or premium or VIP parking locations.

To manage these perks, the carpooling technology should have a mobile payment element or a related mobile payment app to remove the friction of accessing incentives. The mobile payment technology will permit the driver to seamlessly access parking incentives and obtain a virtual permit for carpool parking. It will also allow program administrators to offer driver and rider incentives in the form of loyalty rewards to both drivers and riders. Common additional incentives for universities, beyond parking, include points that can be used towards discounts in campus bookstores or at local businesses.

A New Type of Mobility
Colleges and universities across the United States are focused on mobility. Getting students, faculty and staff to campus safely and conveniently is a primary concern of campus transportation managers. Carpooling programs are increasingly important elements of campus mobility strategies, and ridesharing and mobile parking payment apps can work together to assure the success of a campus carpooling program.