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County’s Rideshare Pilot Program Awarded Federal Grant

The real-time system would be based on a GPS-enabled smart-phone platform

Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, announced Wednesday that a nearly $160,000 grant has been awarded by the Federal Highway Administration to Caltrans for a dynamic ridesharing pilot project by the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments and the Community Environmental Council.

The pilot project will utilize smart phones, text messages and the Internet to organize real-time ridesharing among commuters on two congested segments of Highway 101 between Santa Barbara and Ventura.

A successful project in Santa Barbara would prove the technology and general concept of dynamic ridesharing and study how it impacts travel behavior. This information could be used nationwide in the development of similar programs and technology.

“I’m so pleased that our county has been awarded this federal grant to showcase ridesharing programs. Once again, our community is at the forefront of developing innovative solutions to some of our most pressing problems,” Capps said. “This grant is a great example of how the federal government can assist a local community achieve its goal of alleviating congestion and parking problems, while gaining additional benefits like reducing pollution and fuel consumption. It’s a win-win — for the environment and your morning commute.”

“Dynamic ridesharing has the potential to significantly reduce traffic congestion, greenhouse gas emissions, fuel consumption, parking demand and commuting costs by using smartphones to efficiently and flexibly match potential carpool partners in real time,” said Jim Kemp of the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments. “We’re excited about testing this concept in the 101 corridor and grateful for the assistance Congresswoman Capps provided to SBCAG/Traffic Solutions and the Community Environmental Council in securing this federal grant.”

“This grant will enable the Santa Barbara region to continue its premier role in developing innovative solutions to pressing environmental and societal problems,” said Dave Davis, CEO/executive director of the Community Environmental Council. “The dynamic ridesharing pilot program will help demonstrate how the use of social networking technology can be used effectively by communities to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels and use our existing infrastructure more efficiently. The Community Environmental Council thanks Congresswoman Capps for her support on this project and her continued strong leadership on energy and environmental issues that face our nation.”

Specifically, the funding would be used to implement technology-facilitated dynamic ridesharing program that includes a range of cash incentives to attract both drivers and riders to participate. The system would be based on a GPS-enabled smart-phone platform. The program initially would recruit 20 drivers and 20 riders in each of the two corridors (80 in total) by offering cash incentives and reimbursement for mileage and cell phone service. It would then expand to include 360 total participants (180 drivers and 180 riders) for a four-month trial period.

The pilot program has a short time horizon that should return useable data and recommendations for other programs to emulate by the summer of 2011.

The Santa Barbara program is proposed to begin immediately after a funding decision is made and would provide results on the first phase as soon as the end of the 2010 calendar year. This program should provide the FHWA and other interested regional planning bodies with useful data about how and where dynamic ridesharing programs can be implemented in the future and how pricing can best be used in its facilitation.

— Ashley Schapitl is the press secretary for Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara.


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