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Urban mobility: Carpooling can extend mass transit with help of ride sharing apps

Imagine we could go back to the drawing board and redesign urban transportation from the ground up. What would it look like? Certainly very different from what it does today.

For a start, no one would design a system where the most common form of transportation costs lakhs of rupees and sits idle 96 percent of the time. That’s right: cars are used just four percent of the day and they’re one of the most expensive possessions families own. That’s just the start of the waste. People spend hours each week sitting behind the wheel of a car. And the congestion caused by all that individual car use is costing India billions a year in lost productivity.

An IIT Madras study suggests that traffic jams in Delhi alone have a congestion cost of $10 billion annually.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

The good news is that there is an alternative to a world that looks like a parking lot and moves like a traffic jam. Because new technology -- from smartphones to self-driving cars -- has given us the chance to get urban mobility right for future generations. There’s no need to start over either. We just have to get smarter about using the resources that exist today in every city around the world.

New technology has made mass carpooling possible for the first time. Getting more people into fewer cars may be an old idea. It goes back to the oil crisis of the 1960s and 1970s. But the smartphones in our pockets have given it a new lease on life. Apps can instantly match up people who are headed in the same direction at the same time. Riders share the trip and split the cost. Overtime, this has the potential to reduce congestion and pollution.

In many places mass transit is a highly efficient way to move millions of people around town. But it can’t reach everyone’s front door without billions of rupees in extra investment, which most cities can’t afford. Ride sharing apps can extend the reach of mass transit without costing taxpayers a dime. By complementing public transit, ride sharing apps are helping fill the first mile, last mile gap--making it easy and convenient for people to use the metro network in cities across India.

We’re already seeing attitudes to individual car ownership begin to change. Because when people are given an affordable, reliable alternative they are happy to take it.

Morgan Stanley estimates that currently ride-sharing accounts for under 4 percent of the miles driven globally. That number will rise to more than 25 percent by 2030. Just imagine the possibilities that lie ahead!

A better future is within our grasp—it’s one where people share rides and take public transit simply because it’s a better option to owning a car. It’s a future where people have equal access to affordable transportation; where they spend less of their income on cars or commutes, and less time stuck behind the wheel; and where parking spaces are replaced by parks and affordable housing.

(The writer is President Uber India & South Asia)

Updated Date: May 07, 2017 13:13 PM

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