India has a serious problem on its hands. It’s air pollution. Major global cities have recognized motor vehicles are a major cause of poor air quality. So, governments are implementing strategies that incentivize public transport use to reduce the number of vehicles in urban areas.
Major Indian cities are known to have dismal air quality. A 2016 World Health Organization study shows us that Indian cities dominate over half the list of the 20 most polluted cities in the world.
To tackle this issue, the Delhi government introduced the odd-even scheme. It was instituted for two weeks each from January to April 2016. The measure set the media ablaze and got high coverage. Multiple private and government initiatives for carpooling were introduced. The city saw the launch of new carpooling apps while existing carpool platforms saw a massive increase in users.
Granted, it’s hard to shift to take on the hustle-bustle of public transport. If you have your own car, your life is a whole lot easier. But it’s not that hard to switch to a carpooling habit with colleagues and friends. You can let co-workers hitch a ride or offer to chauffeur your friend to a particular place. Not only will you contribute to reducing pollution but you will also save up a lot in transportation expenses.
General Outlook on Carpooling
Carpooling is a good solution to fight air pollution as it reduces the number of cars on major roads. It also decongests roads, allowing cars to travel smoother and faster. This brings down pollution further as cars are consuming less petrol by driving faster. People also have the liberty to drive cars anytime they want without lower maintenance and parking costs for each car.
Research shows that each car in a carpooling system eradicates up to 11 vehicles off the road. This reduces annual pollution numbers by 13 metric tonnes. If implemented in India smartly, car-sharing can replace 25 cars with 1 car. This will bring down the levels of city congestion and automobile pollution significantly.
Impact of Technology on Carpooling System
Ride-sharing between commuters is not a new practice, particularly for employees and students. It’s an informal cost-sharing or barter driven system going on for years. But the rise of smartphone users has transformed this market completely.
Commuters wishing to carpool can hitch a ride with an app or website. Ideal scenarios would have the system matching the ride-seeker with a ride-giver within minutes. And it works for travelling within cities and long-distance trips too.
Real-time locations have made it easier to meet rising carpool demand. Easy digital payments have also reduced cash exchanges, making the system very convenient. Carpooling is cheaper too because you’re looking at spending somewhere between INR 50-80 for a 15km distance in a carpool arrangement. It costs less than your monthly gas refueling or taking an AC taxi or cab alone.
Carpooling Platforms are Becoming Highly Popular
The carpooling industry is growing exponentially in India. The major cities saw over 85 platforms launched since 2015. Several carpooling platforms saw an increase in users from 25% to 350% in April 2016 phase.
The Odd-Even Scheme by the Delhi Government Worked but Problems Remain
A study showed that particulate pollution of 2.5, reduced by 20% during the daytime. And congestion reduced too, as indicated by the 5.4% rise in the average vehicle speed. However, changes in emissions solely depend on the transportation mode people shifted to. Whether they shifted from cars to carpooling or using public transport. However, despite the grand government scheme, in January and February 2016, particular pollution in Delhi rose by 15% and 23%.
Problems remain however in allowing the system to really grow to its potential. Safety and security concerns for commuters still restrict the industry’s potential growth. Access to investments is also restricted due to the ambiguity surrounding the legality of this business in Indian regulations. There are no provisions on carpooling in the Motor Vehicles Act. Also, local governments have so far given mixed responses to the business.
A Solution to Make Commuters Choose Carpooling as their Chosen Lifestyle
Concerns are rising about the policies being taken to tackle air pollution. There are no easy answers. But solutions exist to make carpooling a good alternative to single-occupancy cars.
One solution, that proved to be popular in the US, is setting high-occupancy toll lanes or HOT lanes. This practice is to reserve lanes on selected roads and highways for vehicles with more than one person. This restricts single-occupancy vehicles to the other lanes. By relaxing speed limits on these lanes as well, HOT lanes become relatively faster. It has been effectively set up in China and Indonesia. It encouraged commuters to choose to carpool for a faster and cheaper journey.
Critics believe that India’s particular disregard for lane-driving would make HOT lanes ineffective. But effective implementation would foster a strong incentive for disciplined driving culture. However, imposing large fines on violators in HOT lanes with strict monitoring in limited areas can incentivize passengers to carpool.
Overall, carpooling will not just bring down gas expenditure, but it will make travelling a lot more fun. By rotating driving responsibilities each day, you can save yourself from fatigue too. Most often than not, 5 people driving the same route to work will use their own cars. But switch to that one car for faster, fun, and pocket-friendly travel to work. The fewer number of cars on the road means we can get the air-quality we all deserve.
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