Car-pooling is a simple fix for our broken city transport systems

Britt Spencer

Over the past decade, we’ve seen a global awakening to the broken transportation systems that we rely on. Single-occupancy vehicles (SOVs) are consuming cities, with traffic levels continuing to rise, leading to air pollution that harms our communities, the environment and economies. Regardless of how many roads are built to keep up with the increase of vehicles, we cannot “pave” our way to better transportation habits.
In 2021, cities will wake up to the effects of vehicle dependence, and will respond by nudging people toward alternative transport solutions, such as publicly shared bikes and scooters, and carpooling – which will be key to solving our cities’ transport problems.


Carpooling is a huge opportunity to reduce the amount of vehicles on our roads and a number of companies, including Waze, have developed platforms in this area. By filling all five seats in a car, we could transport the same number of people with 20 per cent of the infrastructure, pollution, cost and congestion.
The Covid-19 lockdowns gave us a glimpse of what a world without SOVs could look like. At Waze, we saw daily driven kilometres reduce by as much as 60 per cent globally in April compared to February, with the remaining cars on the road flowing freely. Cities such as Toronto, Paris, London and my hometown of New York built on these changes by pedestrianising streets, creating bike lanes and even opening restaurants in car parks.
However, post-lockdown trends seem to suggest that a future of efficient transport systems could now be further away than what we had originally hoped. We have seen a dramatic increase in the demand for cars, as people avoid public transport and look to use SOVs for both short- and long-distance transportation. This in turn has put financial pressures on public-transit infrastructure.
In 2021, we will need to create a “New Transportation Deal”, which will rid us of our dependence on SOVs. Currently, authorities such as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend carpooling with only one passenger, but it is hoped that this will ease as Covid-19 restrictions lift further.


To encourage ride sharing, local authorities will have to provide stronger incentives to encourage citizens to participate in journeys with others by increasing congestion pricing and expanding schemes such as dedicated lanes for high-occupancy vehicles. Governments will be required to introduce tax incentives for employers who adopt shared mobility and for the staff that use it.
The pandemic has given us a glimpse of a future in which our cities have far fewer vehicles on the road. In 2021, we will have to begin introducing policies that ensure this vision becomes a permanent reality.
Noam Bardin is CEO of Waze, and was previously VP of product at Google

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