Why Shared Rides Matter in Commuting

Aug 29, 2022

Zoë Randolph

Content Strategist

As employers look for ways to cut emissions and reduce the parking demand, many turn to a tried and true approach to cutting down on drive-alone commutes: shared rides.

What exactly is a “shared ride”? It’s a broad term that encompasses everything from neighborhood carpools to sleek, wifi-enabled corporate shuttles. The common denominator is that people travel together in a vehicle (though not via public transit). 

Shared rides can form the basis of hugely successful commuter programs, particularly in areas underserved by public transit. In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at the types of shared ride programs, their benefits, and what they look like at their best. 

Four types of shared rides

Generally, shared rides fall into one of the following categories:

  • Shuttles: Employees are driven in a private shuttle provided by their employer. The number of stops and routes offers depends on the size of the company, the number of people who use the shuttle, and the geography of the area and employee distribution.

  • Vanpool: Employees drive one another in employer-provided vans. Groups (and the driver) are usually the same each day.

  • Carpool: Employees drive one another in their own vehicles. Though this may be facilitated by the employer, arrangements are generally left to the members of the carpool to organize. 

  • Guaranteed (also called Emergency) Ride Home Programs: Employees have access to backup rides to or from work that can be used in an emergency, or when they must work irregular or unexpected hours.

Benefits of shared-ride commuting

Shared rides are appealing to employers and employees alike. 

Reduce parking demand

By moving away from a one-car-per-person commuting structure, shared ride programs can dramatically impact parking demand. Even at the carpool level, pairing every commuter with a carpool buddy can slash parking spaces in half. Simply the presence of a guaranteed ride home program can encourage people to leave their cars behind because they know they will be able to get back at a moment’s notice if needed.  

Reduce emissions

As organizations increasingly set sustainability goals, work to comply with local regulations, and make progress toward green building certifications, cutting down on the emissions produced by individual drivers has become a major priority. And reducing drive-alone rates is an essential prerequisite.

Foster community

Shared rides offer another forum for employees to connect. Whether it’s a carpool that becomes a lunch group or a friendship that grows out of a chat on the shuttle, shared rides help employees mix and mingle. 

Offer a popular perk

Providing access to shuttles and other programs is a popular employee perk, and can be a differentiator in recruiting, hiring, and retention. 

Improve equity

Shared ride programs can improve your ability to support a wider array of employees, making it easier for those who are differently abled or who may not have access to (or want to own!) a car get to and from work.

Which workplaces benefit the most from shared ride commuting programs?

Shared rides can be beneficial nearly everywhere, but some workplaces are better-suited than others. (If your office is in the center of a bustling city, for example, you may want to prioritize public transit and micro-mobility programming.) 

We tend to see companies in these circumstances have the most success:

  • Lack of access to public transit. Getting people out of cars in this case is more difficult than simply handing out subway passes. 

  • Clusters of employees. When employees are scattered, shared ride programs can be difficult to facilitate. But if large numbers of employees are concentrated in certain areas, shuttles, vans, and carpools start to make a lot more sense. 

  • Limited parking. A no-brainer. If you’ve got more parking demand than supply, or want to cut parking costs, you’ll need to move people away from driving alone and toward traveling together. 

  • Sustainability goals. Commuting emissions are a huge source of indirect carbon emissions for most employers. Slashing the rate of drive-alone commutes can have a big impact on your total emission numbers. 

The future of shared-ride commuting

Though there are notable exceptions, many of today’s shared ride programs are ad hoc at best, which means that they mostly engage people who would have been on the lookout for ride-sharing options from the start, and/or aren’t optimized for the real needs of the employee base. Moving forward, the best shared-ride programs will all share a few key characteristics.

Data-driven programming

To understand how to group people, you first need to understand where they are. While some carpool offerings simply match people by proximity, more advanced methods will consider their actual commute routes, so that picking up passengers won’t require driving out of the way. 

Similarly, shuttle programs can be sabotaged by inadequate insight into demand. Through surveys and heat maps, transportation coordinators can identify clusters of employees and build routes that serve the greatest number of people. 

Ongoing data collection will also be important for administrators’ ability to track the success of programs, prove their impact, and make adjustments along the way.

Flexible spending

For emergency rides home, supplying employees with a flexible spending card eligible for particular services (for example, Lyft or Uber) makes it far easier for employees to take advantage of your programs when they need to, without the paperwork or approval processes that can slow things down. On the administration side, you’ll be able to streamline the approval process with technology, rather than manually approving or disapproving each claim.

Dynamic programming

The rigidity of some shared ride programs can be their downfall. For instance, a shuttle that runs the same sized vehicle every day can end up mostly empty, particularly in companies with hybrid work arrangements. Car- and vanpools can fall apart if the driver switches jobs or moves. 

Instead, the future of shared ride programs may well be dynamic, shifting daily to accommodate the needs of commuters. This might look like riders booking seats each time they want to use the shuttle, or using active car- and vanpool matching to find rides when they need them. 


Shared ride programs are a crucial part of the future of commuting, but the most successful will be adaptable, dynamic, and data-driven to meet the needs of modern commuters and maximize their reach. 

Commutifi can help you build, manage, and optimize your commuting programs. See how.

Better commuting starts here.

Better commuting starts here.

Better commuting starts here.