Five years ago, it used to take me 40 minutes to reach IIT Gate from Gurgaon (even in a Roadways bus) in rush hour traffic. Today – it is at least 1hr 15mins or upwards to traverse the same distance.
Let me first make an appeal first – we should try and figure out what we can do to help the traffic condition in the city instead of whining about what the government should do to solve the traffic problem in the city. Whether it is (a) the public transport system b) Introducing a road tax c) Better Roads d) Fining errant drivers – all these processes are basically time-consuming because of either infrastructural requirements or political and systemic issues. Thus, till some of these actually do come to pass, we should look for solutions within our current set of constraints.
An interesting poster from WikipediaI think one great way to do it, is to enage in carpools. In my perspective – and I might be underinformed here, carpooling is not terribly popular in and around Delhi (simple empirical evidence includes the sheer number of cars with lone drivers) – whatever car pools there might be – are probabaly within the domains of a college or organisation – which is hardly car pooling because in that case you are just sharing rides with your friends.
What I perceive as a carpool is something that I experienced in Germany, when I had to take a ride from Dresden to Berlin. There you have a website called mitfahrgelegenheit.de [I know, no point trying to pronouce it]. The premise is really simple – say I have a car and am driving to Berlin from Dresden – I post that on the website, interested people can call me, and then join me for the ride upon sharing the fuel cost.
Here, as an occasional commuter – I have hardly had the chance to carpool.
I think there is a definite opportunity there which has not been fully tapped.
Some top-of-mind issues which a carpooling service will need to tackle:
1] Besides round-the-week travel which is more structured, it should also be able to cater to occasional commuters.
2] Security is of utmost concern – especially for women.
3] A way for the concerned parties to communicate easily.
4] Finding coherent routes. Say if I drive from Gurgaon to GK-II, I can have people who might want to get off at intermediate stops
5] Coordinating time: With the Indian Standard Time ruling supreme, impunctuality on one person’s part can ruin it for the other person.
So far I know of two variants of carpooling services that exist online. One is a general format where an Auto Classified website also has carpooling as a section. For example, Indimoto carpool section. Here you can post whether you want a ride, or can give one – which are chronologically arranged as forum posts (they look like cheap ads). Issues: the postings are few and extremely infrequent, they primarily cater to round-the-week travel.
Another much more sophisticated variant is KoolPool. It’s membership bases – so secure and uses SMS to communicate (and even match routes I think). Though they seem to have not signed up very many people (764 in all – assuming 3 per car now and 1 per car before – that’s only about 510 vehicles off the road), even though I first heard of them launching in 2006. But so far it’s only in Mumbai and Pune.
So, I think there is much to be done here: How about a KoolPool variant for Delhi/NCR? How about a Facebook app which enables carpool within a network? How about a mitfahrgelegenheit.de variant?
Whatever it might be, carpooling can definitely be a faster solution than government reforms to at least reducing the traffic problem in our cities if not solving it.