By Connie Kwan
Millions of empty seats travel around the country on a daily basis – an incredible waste of increasingly valuable energy resources. What if we could fill those seats and take other cars off the road? At Going Green 2010 this week, I found a communication platform that can help fill those seats. This video with Paul Steinberg of Avego profiles their platform for enabling next generation efficient transport. The combination of transit and private cars is brutally inefficient. The mass transit system is truncated. A short 20 min journey by car may involve a much longer multi-leg journey on mass transit. Mass transit during non-peak hours is expensive to operate but necessary due to lack of alternatives. Meanwhile, private car ownership is expensive, and does not travel efficiently during peak hours. Imagine a solution that provides real-time passenger information and real-time location of empty seats traveling in the right direction. It would become a platform for marrying all modes of transportation into one seamless and efficient whole. That is what Avego has set out to do. With thousands of users 63 countries, Avego is already influencing the way people travel.
To enhance trust, Avego allows user ranking of each other, and provides a 4 digit code for matched riders to find each other securely. On the incentives front, the Seattle Department of Transportation is spending half a million dollars in extra incentives such as gas cards and cash rebates to motivate passengers to choose empty seats in other private cars or on mass transit over their own vehicle. The incentives will last six months, after which the department believes the new habit will take hold. Drivers will continue to receive the established price of $0.20/mile per empty seat. Santa Barbara and the San Francisco Bay area are poised to follow suit with the Metropolitan Transport Commission putting up $1.5 Million dollars for a similar program.
Transportation constitutes roughly 30% of US energy usage. The fastest and most effective method for reducing this energy use is by becoming more efficient in the use of our existing system. Companies like Avego are providing the catalyst for change. Will people join?
Connie Kwan is a GreenTech Marketing professional based in Silicon Valley, CA. She is pursuing an MBA in Sustainability at Presidio Graduate School and blogs about sustainability and business at Sustainable Thinking: Applied.