Here’s a neat idea: NuRide, a web-based service that makes it easier to find carpool matches—and actually gives incentives (such as gift cards) for people to use the service. It hasn’t reached the Northwest yet, but you can sign up to be notified when it does.
According to Earth Share Washington’s Dave Manelski, who tipped us off about this, NuRide may get funding from state transportation agencies or other entities who want to track the number of cars that are being kept off the road—which could be useful if states move towards a cap-and-trade approach to limiting greenhouse gas emissions.
My only caveat—in a crowded urban area, where the demand for rush-hour transportation tends to exceed the supply of road space, taking a car off the road may simply open up space for another drive-alone commuter. So for every rush-hour commuter who switches to NuRide, you’re likely to see one other person shift from, say, taking the bus to driving their car. The right measure for a cap-and-trade scheme is the total amount of fuel consumed per capita, not the number of hypothetical trips prevented. The latter is just too slippery a measure.
The greater value in carpooling is that it can help prevent unnecessary spending on highway projects that are designed to accomadate more cars during rush hour. So I’d be excited to see NuRide catch on.