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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Still trying to bring NuRide to Pittsburgh

Last month I posted about NuRide and the lack of action on the part of regional groups to bring a viable ride sharing program to Pittsburgh. The other day I actually met with two representatives of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission at their office in downtown Pittsburgh. The agenda of the meeting was to discuss NuRide and ideas on how we can bring them to Pittsburgh, but it quickly became apparent that is was just a meeting for the sake of having a meeting so the bureaucrats in charge could say that they lee into NuRide but couldn't "see any benefit" to bringing them here. Basically - NuRide is a new idea and bureaucrats hate anything new that threatens the establishment. Below is an excerpt of an email I sent to Mike Madison over at Pittsblog.

Subject: The Region is Doomed

I had a meeting with two individuals from the Southwestern PA Commission's transportation committee. The SPC is responsible for planning and prioritizing the use of all state and federal transportation funds allocated to the region. The topic was the current ride sharing program and the idea I had to bring NuRide to the burgh. What a disaster. The guy across the table from me was a classic Pittsburgh bureaucrat. He couldn't see any reason why we should bring an incentive based ride share program to the region. He thinks that their web based ride share program, which has approximately 250 people sharing rides, is good enough. I told him I've never heard of their program because it isn't advertised anywhere but their website. I was supposed to conference call the CEO of NuRide in on our discussion but the bureaucrat WOULD NOT LET ME CALL HIM. He wouldn't let me call the CEO! "We're here to talk to you, we'll call their CEO on our own if we want to.".

Following the meeting Rick Steele, NuRide's CEO, said the reason they have not tried to come Pittsburgh in the past is the fact that he heard dealing with the bureaucrats here is "a nightmare." We're going to focus on our energies on getting corporate sponsors for NuRide because it is obvious the SPC people feel threatened by a better ride sharing program. I might send the one guy a copy of "Who Moved My Cheese" for Christmas. Anyways, it was a good experience for me because as I try to get things to change around here I am sure this is exactly the response I'm going to get from all corners of the burgh - "It won't work", "Too risky", "I don't see the benefits". I'm going to post on it some more but first I am waiting on NuRide to send me some case studies and statistics on their initiatives in DC and a few other metros.

So, it was a tough sell for me because I did not have all the facts and statistics, which were going to be provided by NuRide's CEO had I been allowed to call him. During that meeting I was told that the SPC's commuteinfo.org has roughly 250 individuals signed up for ridesharing. 250!! The goal of incentive based ride sharing programs is to change behavior. NuRide has attributed 60% of total riders in its markets to those individuals who would not have carpooled in the first place. It also mentioned it was signing up about 500 new riders each month in some of its markets. True, Pittsburgh is no DC or New York when it comes to commuter volume but I think we can do much much better than 250 participants. More to come on this as I receive more data but I expect us to try to get some corporate sponsors involved rather than relying on an organization such as SPC.


Anonymous said...

Uh... NuRide is not all it is cracked up to be. Trust me.

Anonymous said...

Having lived in VA and seeing NuRide in action for a few years, I can tell you it is not something to spend too much time on. You can blame government but the fact is only a few regions have adopted for reasons. Have you compared your CommuteInfo's budget with that of NuRide? I'm sure you'll be in for a surprise on that one alone. Of course it does have it's good features (I do carpool and have used NuRide in the past), but keep an open mind and look into the future a bit.

Schultz said...

Trust you even though you refuse to sign your name? Sure Deep Throat.

How do you define success for a program like NuRide? The fact that some their markets (Houston and DC from what I've read) have thousands of riders signed up means it is already making a very positive impact. Do you know how much CO2 emissions that is eliminating? How about NOX? How about dollars saved on gasoline? I'll post some statistics as soon as they become available.

Sure, ride sharing probably makes only a tiny dent in the congestion in areas like DC but there will never be one 'silver bullet' solution. Instead we'll have to hope that improvements in mass transit and more options like NuRide, Zipcar, and Flexcar get more people to leave their cars at home.

The problem with our government is that they think building more highways is the answer. That sort of thinking is why we cannot rely on them to back unconventional ideas like incentive based programs.