Consider this the next time you’re waiting for a taxi at the airport: Sharing the ride with another person in queue could not only save you time and money, it would also reduce traffic congestion and pollution.

Following a yearlong study of New York City taxi rides, MIT researchers found such a scenario would result in travel times dropping by 25%, and distance traveled dropping by 40%—making for faster trips and less pollution.

The study’s algorithm took into account the GPS coordinates of the pick-up and drop-off points of the initial trip, then factored in other trips that were efficiently combined between those points. Researchers found that any single trip was shareable with approximately 100 other trips.

“We were ourselves very surprised with the results, which are quite striking, of how much more efficiently we could use the mobility infrastructure in cities,” said Carlo Ratti, a coauthor and director of MIT’s Senseable City Lab, in a recent interview with National Geographic.

A number of “sharing” services have already been embraced by city dwellers, ranging from car-sharing services such as Zipcar, to short-term office space rental (Breathe), and even apartment sharing. Researchers are optimistic that when people realize the benefits of sharing a taxi ride, they’ll embrace this idea, too.

“We’ve seen with Airbnb that people are ready to share even intimate spaces, in their homes, now that we have systems online that allow you to know better who you’re sharing with,” Ratti said.

Plans are underway to begin similar research projects in metropolises such as Singapore and Rio de Janeiro, with the ultimate goal of developing a “law of shareability” that can predict what sharing models will work best in different cities.

Read more in-depth coverage about the study at the New York Times and National Geographic.

Related Topics

One comment

  1. Well written, it’s a shame that what seems to be common sense and was popular when I was younger, our parents used to carpool when taking kids to school, now go to almost any school and there are massive jams due to the number of cars carrying one passenger. I used to travel to work and share the cost of petrol with 2 more passengers, better for everyone including the ecology. Maybe now people are beginning to revert back due to the economy rather than for “green” reasons, whatever the catalyst it’s a good result for the environment.

Share your thoughts

Thank you for your comments and for your role in creating a safe and dynamic online environment. MIT Spectrum reserves the right to remove any content that is deemed, in our sole view, commercial, harmful, or otherwise inappropriate.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *