S2E04: Dynamic Carpool Matching

Apr 7, 2022

Andy Keeton

VP Global Strategy

Between the Lines S2E04: Dynamic Carpool Matching

with Jacob Greig


Why will Dynamic Carpool Matching help save the planet?

On this week's episode of Between the Lines, we chat with we chat with Jacob Greig. Jacob is VP Americas at Liftango, a shared mobility platform and Commutifi partner. He is responsible for the development and management of client relationships and staff based in the US and Canada.

He recently led the Vancouver Metro Carpool deployment for Translink, and previously worked for over 12 years as a business consultant supporting cities and organizations globally in enhancing their digital capabilities.

Learn more about Liftango's dynamic carpooling solutions here.

And check out our exclusive commuter playlists on Spotify!


Episode Transcript:

- (Narrator) Commutifi presents Between the Lines with Andy Keeton. Each week we explore the challenging issues transportation demand management professionals face on their journey to transition commuters from driving alone, to more sustainable, shared and active commuting habits. Be sure to subscribe to hear next week's episode and check out our exclusive commuter playlists on Spotify. This is between the lines with Andy Keeton.

- (Andy Keeton) Hey everyone and welcome to this episode of between the lines. Today I'm joined by Jacob Greig. Jacob is VP America for Liftango which is a shared mobility platform and a great partner of Commutifi and we're really excited to talk to them today about dynamic carpool and dynamic carpool matching. But first thanks for joining us today Jacob.

- (Jacob Greig) Pleasure Andy thanks for having us.

- (Andy Keeton) And I alluded to it already. We're talking today about why dynamic carpool matching will help save the planet. So there's a lot to that dynamic carpool matching three words, it's a lot but we're going to start with that middle word carpool. I think a lot of people know what carpool is but just to kind of set the scene can you tell us a little bit what is carpooling and kind of what are the high-level benefits that people can get from carpool from doing a carpool versus driving alone?

- (Jacob Greig) Yeah, so I guess yeah it's as simple as it is often gets confused so carpooling is really the sharing of your personal vehicle. So not TNCS, not ride-sharing but the simple act of colleagues, co-workers, people who share a common workplace or place of study, traveling together instead of traveling on their own. And it's one of the older forms of shared mobility. I think it had its real sort of origination in the time of the oil crisis in the 70s. So quite an interesting time you're talking about it again. as we face that kind of current fuel crisis.

- (Andy Keeton) Yeah, so it's not Uber, it's not Lyft. It's literally getting in a car with a co-worker or maybe just someone who works near you or lives near you. And doing the old-fashioned like I don't know talking to people on your way to work.

- (Jacob Greig) Yeah sharing that commute. Yeah not doing it all by yourself. And you know it's simple but it seems to be kind of hard to get people to do it, I think. You know statistically in the US. It's sat at about a five to six to six percent rate of carpooling nationally when we sit between sort of seventy to eighty percent driving on our own. So not sort of a habit that people have embraced some time but you know a potentially great, great solution and simple solution to a lot of the challenges our cities and our climate face.

- (Andy Keeton) I agree for sure. And it is an interesting challenge how do we actually get people to carpool? It's not like you said five percent six percent of people do it. So obviously, it's not a common thing. So let's kind of get into this the main topic, which is dynamic carpool matching and Liftango's technology fits in this. So we'll talk a little bit about Liftango but also just kind of the general technology Let's start by defining what this idea of dynamic carpooling, dynamic carpool matching is. And maybe also comparing it to kind of static traditional ride matching where like you know I'm just connected with someone and I talk with them you know, maybe we set something up via email or something like that.

- (Jacob Greig) Yeah, I think for us dynamic carpool probably represents the… I guess the most innovative step in the evolution of this model. You know it started very organically with word of mouth, motorsports. There's still across many cities in the US. The kind of the carpool places that you go to and people will drive by and pick you up. So a lot of these models still exist and then you know technology has given us different opportunities to improve the efficiency of these models and the attractiveness of these models. So, I guess the next evolution was what is often called static carpooling which is taking the kind of paper notice or making it digital. So putting people's information into a database allowing people to register their interest in carpooling even share the characteristics of their trip and then be presented with a set of potential matches. It's almost like an introductory service and then from there people are able to arrange their own carpools. The next evolution which is where our technology and others come in this dynamic carpooling is taking that last piece of the arranging the matching, the creation of rides and allowing the technology to do that. So, no longer do people have to go through that step of finding somebody and then speaking to them and trying to arrange where we're going to meet and then are you late, to you running late, was it there, was it on this corner, when will it take? The system does all of that. So dynamic carpool is, I enter my trip details either as an offer or as a request and our system you know using algorithms is matching people based on the characteristics of their trip and creating those rides providing navigation for the drivers. And obviously tracking all the data associated with that behavior as well.

- (Andy Keeton) Interesting, so I like that history. Kind of going from maybe just standing on the side of the road like a little modified hitchhiking kind of thing. And then moving to like the notice boards and maybe even a website where you can match with people. Now it's, just do the whole thing through an app or a technology. So the way I imagine it and correct me if I'm wrong is that the technology kind of works most people probably, you know familiar in some way with lyft or Uber where it's like I go on I say I need a ride and someone comes and picks me up. The difference is that someone is also needing to get to where they're going and you're kind of sharing the ride together or you might be that some, that driver that someone and you're picking someone else up. Is that kind of how, how is the user experience, what is it like for me…?

- (Jacob Greig) Yeah so, yes I think you know one of the things you know the dynamic you've then got it opens up potential as to the sort of carpooling network that you have whether it's an open network where anybody can sign up and try to match with anybody else. Or there's a concept of the closed network which is really where organizations relay are able to create networks around their organization or their geography. So business parks or others where there's an opportunity for organizations to share the network. But really they have some control over the membership. That's the model we go with because we've found it. It overcomes one of the major barriers to carpooling which is trust. So people seem to find a certain degree of trust in sharing their right to work with people that they work with or share some sort of geographic or organizational familiarity with. That plus just the basics of that you're most likely going to match to carpool with people that work where you work because you're going to the same place every day. So it kind of stands to work. So with our system, yeah you are given access to the network of your organization. You jump in, then you book your trips. So you do that either as requesting trips as a rider, offering trips as a driver or even with our system you can say that you're open to being either. And you know you say, these are the days that I'm traveling, this is where I'm traveling from and to, these are the times that I need to get to my destination or leave from my destination. So you can set up your return trips, you can control your trip based on when you want to be picked up or when you want to arrive has been the key part of the trip. You can then allow the system to hit your submit booking request and it is very much like Uber and things where you've put in your times, your destination, you've moved around with the like on the map or you've typed in your address. You'll submit booking requests and the system immediately tries to find your match. We also do have a feature that if you want to actually invite specific people that you'd like to carpool with. You can do that. We've got this private ride feature where you can send a link to others. I open that link and the offer is there and they can accept it and the right is created. And then from there, it really does mirror a lot of the experiences that you have with Uber and move to the world where we track the driver's arrival for the rider so they can see the driver arriving in real time, the driver has given navigation to the pickup point to the end destination. There's [inaudible] for both parties. The ability to communicate with each other and you know and then from there I guess the accuracy and depth of that data really sets up opportunities for organizations to incentivize carpooling. And you know really track the progress and the benefits that they're getting from it.

- (Andy Keeton), Yeah let's get into that piece of it too actually because it sounds like it's easy to use which is great and you mentioned the hurdles you know those are the barriers that people have to kind of overcome when they're usually carpooling which is trusting the other person. It's much easier to do it when you know who you are. Or maybe even if you don't know them personally but you kind of can feel like you have some connection. So, I like this idea of networks you mentioned with an organization where a company can have a private network. Let's kind of get into the benefits there. Why would an organization set up a private network beyond this just trust piece and what can you get as an organization if you've set this up and you have this carpooling technology deployed?

- (Jacob Greig) Yeah, and I think probably a few things what I mean first and foremost of this became very acute you know, in a post-covered world is the security factor and the trust factor. So, the fact that you sort of have some control over who's in your network is increasingly important to organizations and individuals to come back into the world of not just driving on their own but sharing with others. But there are other pieces that we've found with it as well so you know there's something about the fact that it is your program thus, you can tailor the communications and the incentives around that program. And you can really get into the richness of the data and therefore the focus that you can put around those things. So, what we've found is that you know the keys to success with this. Yes, the technology plays a role but the technology without effective communication and effective incentives really won't achieve much. And so those two pieces are really critical and all of those three working together is very critical. The closed networks allow you too because they're your employees, they're your people You have a different ability to speak more directly to them. So you know throughout, through our app we will start to notice things like we have a shortage of riders or people are not booking return trips or we don't have enough riders on a Wednesday or there are lots of riders looking for trips in this zip code. And then we can tailor the communications to target those specific behaviors in ways that you can't do if it's an open network that kind of is an exclusive to you similarly with the incentives,you know, they're your people, so you can really you know them better you can decide what sorts of incentives that you offer them. You can tie it into your wider employee benefits program, you know things like tying it into communifier to enable your wider, to align with what you're doing from computer benefits point of view. You know, I think what we're doing up in Vancouver with trying to align it even with, you know, benefits to do with transport is a real step forward as well. And I mean, the really all of that happens when you've got that sort of exclusive or sort of your network that you can really do a lot more with. I guess the other piece too is what we've noticed if you're doing the open network most of the incentive that was relied on was the rider paying the driver. You know the taxable amount that was allowed. And we're not, we were never convinced of the effectiveness of that. The research we've done with our people said that was not really the draw car they figure that out between each other often by sharing the driving or sharing the costs together. And it was the other incentives that were offered to them like, you know, fuel vouchers, coffee vouchers, discounted or preferential parking that really got them to,you know, attracted to the habit of carpool.

- (Andy Keeton) That's actually really interesting and I'm guessing a lot of this came from the data that you're collecting as well you know the pilots you've run and the programs that you have active. That's really interesting that the passenger paying the driver which is really the kind of standard or has been in the past isn't particularly interesting. If you're more interested about getting nicer parking or something like that. That's a good insurance…

- (Jacob Greig) We actually tried it, once, so, we brought in the payment capability and it was a total disaster. So we had something like a 60 percent drop off rates from sign up to put your credit card details in and then they never came back because I think anyone who's tried to get carpooling habits going knows it's a very fragile behavior until people have done sort of two or three trips. Then they become believers and start continuing to have it, but nursing them to that point is a very fragile process and just the friction of having to put your payment details in cause to drop out. Then the rest of the feedback we got was people said "look, I'm going to use your app to find a few people to carpool with but then we're not going to use it anymore because we have our own way of dealing with this and we don't want your app telling us what we need to do in terms of payment." So that was really interesting because it's something we've debated ourselves. And certainly the organizations that we've seen who've had, you know, leaps and bounds higher uptake than others, have tapped into how carpooling can make your trip easier, and one of the biggest pain points is parking at the end, and where organizations have parking pressure, and they've tapped into that as the incentive, so they've offered, either the universities offering discounted parking to carpools, or large organizations offering VIP, or guaranteed spots for carpoolers that's where we see double and triple and quadruple the amount of carpools, than without those sorts of incentives.

[Andy Keeton]- It's interesting. Let's try, I mean, let's dive into a couple of these. You've been, you operate. Well I guess you operate this kind of all over, but I'm sure there's a few use cases in North America where most of our listeners are, but maybe elsewhere as well. Can we talk a little bit? (Jacob Greig):- Yeah, absolutely.

[Andy Keeton]-…successful what have people done?

[Jacob Greig]- Yeah, so it's interesting, we've had a variety of countries, so we've got couple services running in Australia, Romania, Croatia, Serbia, U.K., the U.S., Canada, so it's interesting, seeing what are the things that drive uptake in different cultures and different geographies. A couple of things that have been really interesting. Universities are a terrific use case for carpool, you have a huge population coming to a place, often parking is at a premium, for the universities, it represents an incredible sort of cost and infrastructure investment, and also for the students and faculty, it's often a significant expense, so we see great success with universities. One in particular, a very large university in Australia, one of the biggest in the southern hemisphere, I think, about 80,000 staff and students, they're located in kind of suburban Melbourne, in South of Australia, and had huge parking problems, they were spilling out into the residential areas around them, and they went through the hard process of, they got rid of monthly parking passes, which we all know in the TDM world that are absolute antithesis of everything we're trying to do. So they did that, they got rid of them, they moved to day parking rates, I think they made the day parking rate, something like twelve dollars, but if you carpool it was three dollars, and even to remove friction we created a connection with the mobile parking payment system that they were using, and so you could couple through our app, hit a link to that app, pre-load the discount, pay for instant gratification of the fact that you carpooled, and without really any extensive communication or marketing. In the first week of launching that, the rate of carpool tripled, the graph just went like this, we've never seen anything have such an impact. So, there really is something in that, right? So we knew parking was always one of the most effective incentives, but the instant gratification of it, because we've done retrospective rebates and things like that, and they'd never had the impact that this did. That was really interesting, I think another use case we're working with a very large automotive manufacturer here in the U.S., growing at rapid speed, opening massive factories all over the U.S. Desperate with parking pressure as well really driving a lot of what they're doing, as well as people commuting up to two hours a day to get to their factories, and so far what they're doing is using, they're paying drivers and riders per day for carpooling, and that seems to be quite effective as well, and I think it's really interesting to see the behaviors, so they started by giving people a really large incentive to do their first two trips and that was where we learned that if you can get someone to sign up and do two trips, there's something like three or four times more likely to keep going and become a regular user, than if they don't do those two trips, so I think for organizations front load your incentives to get that initial burst of activity, and also get the scale that you need into the system to increase the matching potential, and then also at the start they only rewarded drivers, because they thought, "well, obviously the driver is getting the benefit here, we'll just reward the drivers." And then a month in, we had three times as many drivers as riders, a lot of drivers sitting there, with no one to match with, so hence they brought in the incentives for riders, it is interesting to, I guess that's where the power of the data comes in and you guys know that you're some of the best in the business at it, but really having the data on how people are behaving, when are they opening the app, how far are they getting in the app, when are they requesting rides, in what mode you can really react to that, so we could see, "alright we have too many drivers, not enough riders, that's why we're not getting more matches, let's do something about it." I think that process of try something, see how it goes, look at the data, try something else, is constant. There's not a sort of magic ingredient for carpool, it's just a constant process of learning and evolving, because really it's a behavioral change challenge, right? People are not particularly binary, so.

(Andy Keeton) : -Yeah. Those insights are great. I mean, anyone listening to this just in that last three minutes that you talked, got a lot. Front load your incentives, that's an awesome idea. Certainly, discounting parking, and then just the constant reconsidering of what you're doing and making sure that the data point to the right subsidies and programs that you put in place, it makes a lot of sense and it's exciting to see that it's been successful, and it's successful in a lot of different places, so the behavior kind of, is the same you can do the same similar things in a lot of different countries which is really interesting.

[Jacob Greig]- Yeah, I think that where you've got people, where the commute is a challenge and there's not an abundance of public transit options, so they're driving, I don't think there's a culture where carpool can't work, that we've encountered, but certainly the way that you make it work will change what appeals to people. Carpool in Europe has been really interesting for us, this is a place we wouldn't thought carpooling would be particularly attractive, it doesn't have the sort of car worship culture that a U.S. and australian audience has, but they coming out of Covid, a lot of them didn't want to get on public transit anymore, or there's been cuts in public transit, and so a lot of them are starting to drive and what's been wonderful with them is, they immediately say : "this is a luxury that I'm driving, let's try to share." So they're almost an easier audience to create a habit with… from a slightly different place.

[Andy Keeton]- Yeah, that's really interesting, different behaviors and outlooks on how transportation interacts with life. I certainly would lead to, having to do different things but the nice thing, like getting back to the idea of this dynamic carpool, that allows you to change and be dynamic with the technology and the program put in place.

[Jacob Greig]- Yeah, I think. What we've seen where we've replaced static matching solutions is, I think, that the statistics were in the static model most people had between one and two partners that they would carpool with regularly, and then we see with ours, it kind of doubles to about three or four generally, that they'll try and match with. You're getting potentially more matching capability and connection within your organization, so that should lead to more carpooling. And then the other, really the other big piece is, the data is so much richer and so much more reliable, because every single trip is created, it's a data point it's not self-reported, so there's real accuracy and depth in that data, and obviously that helps you to make better decisions around what you're doing as an organization, that's the feedback we've gotten from organizations as well, who've been doing the static before, they really were kind of guessing at what people were doing and why they were doing it, but the data that you get from a dynamic system is incredibly rich, when someone touched the app and you know how far they got into booking, you know when they last booked, how far they're traveling, all that sort of stuff which is very powerful.

[Andy Keeton]- Speaking my language. I love data. Saying that data is helping always makes me happy and it's funny how a lot of the conversations I end up having with people whether it's carpooling or vanpooling or active commuting or shuttling, whatever it is, a lot of it comes back to data and I think companies are starting to realize that there's new technologies out there and Liftango is a great one certainly in the dynamic carpool space, so we're really excited to have you on and hear about where it's worked and it's clear it's working and that's great, and we're excited to see more and more organizations embrace this, as just like a standard, offering that, of course you have this in part of your toolbox.

(Jacob Grieg) : -Yeah, and I think that's the thing, it's not the solution, but it's a really easy and one that you should challenge organizations to really find a reason why they wouldn't have a carpool program in amongst the other things that they do to help people get to work, because ultimately, we shouldn't be needed, right? Ultimately people would be, if it was out, back to our mission of, to clean the streets and less congestion, ideally people would be picking public transit, they'd be walking, maybe riding when they can, but if you have to get in the dreaded personal vehicle or share it with someone else.

[Andy Keeton]- It's true, it's exactly right. So we are on to our last question, we're almost out of time here, for those people who've listened to or watched an episode before, you'll know we always ask this question at the end, if not, it's a new question for you, but it's a pretty fun one, I like to hear what everyone has to say, so let's throw it your way, Jacob. Why will dynamic carpooling help save the planet?

[Jacob Greig]- Well, I think if you get it right, you could see 20% less cars coming to your workplace, and I think 20% less cars on our roads would make for a much happier planet, certainly happier cities, cleaner air, and more money for fun stuff in people's pockets other than driving. So, yeah. That'll go some way, it's a little part of saving the planet anyway.

[Andy Keeton]- Sure. But as always, I love it. It's always like we're gonna help save the planet by also making people happier and giving people more money. That's like a win-win. I don't know why anyone would. Let's all, I will carpool now. That makes sense to me.

(Jacob Greig) : Yeah, and at four million dollars or later, for gas is probably a ton.

[Andy Keeton]- Yeah, exactly. Now is the time really, this is the ultimate time to really start considering carpooling like you said, get someone in that first couple times and you're like tripling the likelihood that they're to continue down the road, so it's a perfect time for organizations to think about it, gas prices are through the roof. Yeah, institute one of these.We'll put Jacob's information in our email that we send out to anyone on our email lists. If you haven't yet subscribed to that make sure you do that at betweenthelines.io, you can also always reach out to us, we'll send you Jacob's way, I'm sure he's going to be happy to talk to you, I always volunteer our guests to talk to anyone who wants to, but I'm assuming you wanted Jacob, so.

[Jacob Greig]- Absolutely. Yes, you can see I've been talking all day, so it'll be good.

[Andy Keeton]- Exactly, you like to do it. Yeah, so make sure you subscribe betweenthelines.io, give us a like and a rating as well, wherever you listen to podcasts or if you haven't yet, check out our YouTube channel where you can watch the videos and Spotify just released a new feature, you can actually watch the videos up on Spotify as well : It's the future, everything is there for you to consume. Definitely take a look at that if you haven't yet. Well Jacob, thanks again for joining us, it's been a great conversation. I'm really excited to see where Liftango goes, continue to see more organizations adopting this dynamic carpool idea, but thanks for joining us.

[Jacob Greig]- Thank you Andy, pleasure.

[Andy Keeton]- All right we'll see everyone again in a couple weeks with our next episode, Bye!

[Narrator]- Thanks for joining us on this week's episode of Between the Lines with Andy Keeton. Be sure to subscribe to hear next week's episode, and check out our exclusive commuter playlists on Spotify.

Better commuting starts here.

Better commuting starts here.

Better commuting starts here.