Transit on Demand (Have Cell Will Travel) (140)

pm140_550What if you could make a call at any time on your cell phone and have a vehicle come to you within minutes, take you to your local destination, and cost about as much as a bus ride? Allen Hancock’s notion of demand-responsive transit fills the gap between the private automobile and public transit.

Rather than fixed routes and schedules, smaller vehicles guided by intelligent software with gps (geographic positioning system), circulate to where riders are and want to go. Flexible, efficient, low-cost, it uses existing vehicles and roads. Where’s the town that will implement this exciting pilot project? Episode 140.

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  1. Chris Bradshaw says:

    I am campaigning for a similar concept, but have not heard of Allan before.

    My vision uses shared vehicles, but the drivers are all users, rather than paid drivers. I am working on developing a pilot for a suburban service that, though using two-station shared cars, will serve the suburbs, with the car being used for ridesharing to go to a suburban business park in the morning, and then back to a suburban residential area at the end of the work day. At these two locations, cars can be booked for individual trips (or even for noon-hour shuttles to nearby activity centres), and at night and weekends for private use as substitute second cars.

    A shared-car-but-assigned-driver program exists for those with handicaps or who are aged. ITNAmerica (dot) org is spreading across the continent by getting cars donated by those who can’t drive anymore, getting drivers from the ranks of ‘early’ seniors who want to build up a bank of rides for their later use, and donations from users’ families and other charities, to provide rides as needed, door to door.

    My ultimate system uses the GPS phones, but few door-to-door arrangements, depending more on people walking to and from nearby main roads. Walkability is both the cause and effect of what I call MASC, metered access to shared cars.

    Another angle is to get the software to track not just vehicles, but the seats inside them, allowing these shared vehicles’ seats to be part of the same ‘pool’ on the software as transit-vehicle seats, and thus being able to offer reserved seating across a multi-vehicle trip, between any two points with almost no waiting. Imaging electronically ‘flagging’ a ride from the next vehicle approaching you!

    Chris, Ottawa, Canada
    former carsharing entrepreneur

  2. Hi Nigel,
    Good point. But how would it be different from bus-jacking? If you’re using, say a truck or van, and there are other passengers, it might be a deterrent. I’ll bet somebody bright would have a way for the driver to signal the dispatcher if there’s trouble.

    What I love about new ideas is that collective wisdom and questions like this will help refine the design.

  3. Nigel Wason says:

    This is a great idea, but we are heading into a period where strangers will not be so trusting of one another – a viewer above mentions screening drivers – but who will screen those calling in for a ride? – talk about saving steps for would-be carjackers

    sorry, didn’t mean to rain on anyone’s parade

    Hi, Janaia

  4. I am having trouble watching Youtube videos on my ancient computer so I don’t know exactly what Allen Hancock is suggesting. I am in my nostalgia mood for Romania (see my comment in Janaia’s recent Journal entry) and I remember a phenomenon I saw there. Romania was (and I assume still is) a poor country where car ownership was not as common as in the West. Although Romania’s railway system was quite extensive, it was pretty decrepit, and the buses that ran were packed, infrequent or often broken down by the side of the road. Many poor people who had to get from the smaller villages to the bigger cities for various reasons, health check-ups, jobs, etc., resorted to a form of paid hitchhiking. They stood by the side of major roads (or at the city limit sign if they were going home) with their arm extended and flapped their hand at the wrist as cars approached. This was the accepted signal that they wished to be taken along and would pay for it. The car owners soon packed their cars with as many as could fit in and made a modest profit going to and coming from their big city destinations. This fare was usually comparable to the bus fare and was affordable for the poor. I thought it was a nice, sociable solution to a transportation problem.

  5. Jill, I think this could work just as well in a rural area. But the difference may be the length of wait before a vehicle arrives (or returns). In our rural area, we’d probably want to sign up a lot of folks as potential drivers, to increase the likelihood of timely rides. I think of the software was as smart as we want it to be (plus it’ll probably need a human watcher to make sure it’s working fine), it would likely be adaptable to most situations.

  6. Oooh, remember “maze cars” in the book version of Logan’s Run?

  7. This sounds great for an urban area. But what I’m wondering is, if this clever software exists, why couldn’t there be a system for rural areas. Anyone who wants to participate as a driver could be screened and if they pass, they are are signed on. When participating drivers go somewhere, they tell the magic software where they’re going. Anyone who wants a ride calls the magic software, the software looks for nearby drivers to alert, and the would-be rider is told whether there’s a driver around who will stop by. I could see people participating as both drivers and riders, calling in before they go somewhere to see if they could hop in a car going by.

    If what Allen is talking about in this show is cheap and easy, wouldn’t this be cheaper and easier?

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