Lyft co-founders: Carpooling, smart lanes will end traffic woes

“How much does traffic suck?” Lyft co-founders John Zimmer and Logan Green ask.

We all know the answer to that, and they say they know how to fix the problem: carpooling and smart lanes.

“We now have the tools” to end traffic, the Lyft executives said in a Medium post Tuesday. They propose building smart lanes everywhere that would be free to vehicles with three or more passengers. Vehicles with fewer than three people would have to pay a “market-based” fee.

Of course, San Francisco-based ride-hailing startup Lyft has a carpool service to plug, and like many other tech companies it has a vision for self-driving vehicle fleets. It is part of the sharing economy. But it’s not the only one tooting its own horn. Its co-founders cite a recent MIT study that showed that carpooling services such as UberPool and Lyft Line could reduce traffic by 75 percent.

Lyft’s co-founders also point to congestion pricing making a difference in places such as Washington State and Stockholm, and say there are encouraging signs from tests in London, Singapore and Milan.

They also try to position ride-sharing as patriotic, and part of their plan calls for a federal infrastructure fund to give grants to cities and states that build smart lanes.

“During World War II, riding together was extremely patriotic and empowered everyone to do their part,” Zimmer and Green write. “Why not apply this mentality to drive economic growth today?”

So will Silicon Valley and Bay Area residents heed the carpooling call? Earlier this month when MIT released the study about traffic reduction, an area expert was skeptical because a recent study by Joint Venture Silicon Valley’s Institute for Regional Studies showed that in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, only 10 percent of workers carpool.

“The study is sort of a utopia of carpooling willingness,” report author Jon Haveman told the Mercury News’ Marisa Kendall. “I just don’t see that happening.”

Now the question is whether smart lanes everywhere will change people’s minds.


Photo: Drivers enter the express HOV lane on southbound Interstate 680 between Pleasanton and Fremont in 2011. (Cindi Christie/Bay Area News Group)


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