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Hitching a ride: Carpooling explained

Hitching a ride: Carpooling explained image

Anton Andres / Ryde, Wikimedia commons-Serenity, Newspress, Autoindustriya.com, Grab | October 13, 2017 17:39

A closer look at carpooling and how it works around the world

Just recently, there was this proposal by the MMDA during a recent meeting of the Metro Manila Mayors Council to ban vehicles on EDSA with only the driver as the occupant. Essentially, they want to introduce Metro Manila motorists to the concept of carpooling.

Hitching a ride: Carpooling explained

Carpooling defined

Carpooling started out as a way to ration gas during World War 2 and gained a bigger following during the successive gas crises of the 70's.

In the local context, carpooling began with children in neighborhoods pooling together into one vehicle before heading off to school. The parents then rotate among their vehicles that will be used for the day's trip to school, alternating in order to be fair to the other families. Doing so would reduce traffic both at the school and within the neighborhood given that all the kids study in the same or nearby schools. 

In essence, carpooling aims to reduce the amount of cars on the road by maximizing a vehicle's seating capacity. For example, instead of having four cars with one driver each, they can instead ride with one person, freeing up space for more cars.

Another benefit of carpooling is, of course, cost. For example, if a trip to the office consumes approximately Php 300 worth of fuel, it will be less than that should the passenger pitch in. Also, if there are more passengers in the car, the lower the expenses since the costs are shared with more people.

Disadvantages? If your job relies on a flexible schedule, then carpooling may prove difficult. If you are the passenger in a carpool, it will be difficult to move around once you have been dropped off. Likewise, if you drive the vehicle for the carpool, you have to keep track of the time as to when you have pick the other people up. That said, your trip may take a little bit longer since there are other people to pick up and drop off along the way.

Hitching a ride: Carpooling explained

Carpool vs. Ridesharing

Just to get it out of the way, carpooling is not the same as ridesharing.

For starters, carpooling is not done for profit while ridesharing, on the other hand, operates as a business. Essentially, ridesharing is a form of private hire and 'hailing' for one, as it requires an app. Carpooling, on the other hand, would normally gather a group of people heading to the same destination or to a separate stops along the route.

In ridesharing, a passenger would pay for the services of the driver and does not pitch in for fuel. Carpool passengers would normally share fuel and toll (if applicable) costs with the driver but the exchange of money is not necessarily an obligation. Of course, pitching in for gas would be helpful.

Hitching a ride: Carpooling explained

Carpooling around the world

Needless to say, carpooling is still popular in the US and several states have rules and guidelines for it. There's also vanpooling available in the US and in parts of Canada and, in essence, it is carpooling on a larger scale.

In the capital of Washington DC, 'slugging' has become a common practice and is also supported by the state of Virginia. Several states in the US define carpooling as having two or more passengers in the car and they are allowed to drive on what is called a high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane. HOV guidelines are very strict and driving on these lanes solo can land you a hefty fine. There have been cases wherein drivers were putting mannequins, dolls, and even pets to be able to drive on these lanes.

The city of Portland, meanwhile, has more stringent guidelines. In the city's website, it states that “All members of the carpool must commute together and their place of employment must be in to the Downtown Meter District or the Lloyd Meter District at least four days each week, both ways. The commute route must make common sense, and the carpool members must share at least 50 percent of the commute route together”. Another rule is, “Carpool members must be 14 years and older and all carpoolers must be Licensed Drivers”.

Over in Singapore, it was made illegal to give or 'pitch in' money to the driver you hitched a ride with. In 2015 however, that law was lifted. The carpooling code in Singapore states that the driver should inform the passenger, before the start of the trip, of his or her destination. The driver should also agree with the passenger on the date of, pick up and drop off points.

As for payment, Singapore law states that the amount or the value of any benefit in kind that the person collects from the passenger as payment does not exceed the cost and expenses incurred for the carriage of the passenger. It also says that the amount or value of any benefit in kind that the driver collects should not exceed the cost of the trip.

France has also patterned its carpooling rules after the example set by Singapore. Prior to imposing the new set of rules, France had a problem with carpool drivers overcharging their passengers. These rules were set in place to prevent drivers trying to make a profit.

Hitching a ride: Carpooling explained

Cheating the system

As mentioned above, there are a lot of rules in place for carpooling. However, there have been ways to skirt around the system with Jakarta, Indonesia being one of the prime examples. In mid-90's, Jakarta officials introduced the '3 in 1' or the 'Tiga dalam satu' carpooling rule to cut down on the city's congestion problem.

The rule was simple; during peak hours of the week, you need three or more occupants in the car to travel around the main roads of the city. However, one solution to Jakarta's traffic woes opened up another problem. To get to drive around the city at busy times, 'Jockeys' started to crop up. So what exactly do they do? 

For a fee, a jockey will ride in your car to get around the said 3 in 1 rule. It started out with a dozen but now, there are thousands of them. Many would line up on main roads, looking for solo drivers needing a way into the city. Some would even bring children, just so it would count as two extra passengers.

After nearly 20 years of the said law, Jakarta officials have scrapped the 3 in 1 rule in favor of an odd-even number coding scheme in the city. That said, the new rule still hasn't eliminated Jakarta's traffic problems.

In other countries, some drivers have even placed mannequins on the passenger seat in an attempt to fool authorities into thinking that they are carrying extra passengers. Some people do this practice in order to be able to drive on the normally wide open HOV lane.

Is carpooling right for us?

It's a difficult question to answer. Some countries do carpooling because of initiative or out of convenience. Others meanwhile, do it because it's the law. It's worth noticing that the more you force people out of their own cars, the more they will find ways to keep using them. So what does that mean in the local setting?

Should the government have its way and push through with the 'no driving solo along EDSA' rule, it might just alleviate traffic from the start. However, it might end up opening new avenues to bypass the rules and it will be back to square one. As the world has seen in Jakarta, one solution opened up a new set of problems.