Motivating forces to cultivate a culture for Real Time Ridesharing, as well as experience in beta testing systems are necessary for the successful adoption of a Ridesharing program
Santa Barbara Dynamic Ridesharing Pilot Program
Date Posted

Santa Barbara Dynamic Ridesharing Pilot Program: SmartRide - Final Report

Summary Information

In 2012, SBCAG Traffic Solutions and the Community Environmental Council in Santa Barbara County launched the Dynamic Rideshare project, an FHWA Value Pricing Pilot Program project. The project focused on increasing rideshare participation in the Santa Barbara California region by implementing a dynamic ridesharing program through the use of a smartphone application (branded as Carma) that provided real time carpool matching for individual trips. Riders could open the app and instantly find drivers nearby who wanted to carpool. The system matched drivers and passengers up, allowed users to text or call to meet and facilitated a cashless payment based on mileage. The app also provided the ability to incentivize carpooling through micro payments from Traffic Solutions to the riders and drivers. Similar to Uber or Lyft, users could rate other users from one to five stars, and could leave comments, which helped to add safety and community to the system. Through GPS enabled mobile devices, actual trip data was tracked for all trips within the app.

Two markets were targeted for this pilot: college students and adult commuters traveling Hwy 101. The pilot was originally planned to be an 18 month pilot, but due to extensive beta testing of multiple versions of the app, as well as limited staff resources, the pilot was extended to three years.

Lessons Learned

Overall, the pilot was unsuccessful at launching Real Time Ridesharing in Santa Barbara County as the Carma application failed to garner as much of a user-base as hoped. Over the three year pilot program, a total of 755 individuals downloaded the app, of which only 122 users made a trip and only a quarter of those users made more than one trip. In total, 274 trips were made which resulted in 3,325 miles of ridesharing. The failure of adoption of the Real Time Rideshare Program can be attributed to several factors, including the lengthy app development process, the steep learning curve using the app, and the lack of motivating forces and a culture for Real Time Ridesharing. While the pilot failed at launching a viable Real Time Ridesharing community, it was successful in helping develop the Carma app. It also had value in helping to evolve the concept of Real Time Ridesharing.

Key lessons for communities interested in launching a Real Time Rideshare community are as follows:

  • Conduct internal testing of the technology before introducing it to the general public, and only introduce a technology that is stable and user-friendly.
  • Target markets that have natural conditions that lend themselves to a Real Time Rideshare solution, i.e. toll lanes, HOV lanes, expensive parking, and a concentration of travel between select origins and destinations.
  • Remember that offering a Real Time Rideshare app does not create its own demand.
  • Do not underestimate the level of effort needed to build a critical mass of app users.
  • Consider testing smaller Real Time Rideshare groups composed of 15 to 25 individuals that have similar commutes as an incremental approach to building a larger Real Time Rideshare community. Each group should have a champion that will conduct outreach and marketing to form the group.