Commuter Solutions

Casual Carpooling is (Quietly) Saving Users Time and Money

Findings from UC (University of California) Berkeley’s Transportation Sustainability Research Center reveal that casual carpooling participants find notable time and money savings via sharing commutes.

Casual carpooling is a user-run form of ridesharing in which riders connect with drivers usually nearby public transit hubs. While its exposure in the media has been limited compared to its shared-mobility counterparts like on-demand ridesharing and bikesharing, casual carpooling has been an option in some cities for more than thirty years.

Despite existing for more than three decades, relatively little quantitative research has been conducted on the topic, perhaps due to casual carpooling’s informal nature. Recently, researchers at UC Berkeley’s Transportation Sustainability Research Center set out to gain a better understanding of the user characteristics and motivations for using casual carpooling in San Francisco.

Below are four of the most notable findings from the research:

1. Casual carpooling saves participants time and money

Participants choose to use casual carpooling primarily because of its monetary and time savings through high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) benefits like reduced highway fares and HOV lane use. It is also convenient, as there are 23 casual carpooling locations for accessing this mode throughout the East Bay Area.

2. Participants are often former public transit users

Of the 503 casual carpoolers surveyed, 75 percent were formerly public transit users. While previous studies have posited that casual carpooling adds personal vehicles and reduces public transportation ridership, the aggregate effects of casual carpooling on public transit are unclear and more research is needed.

3. Median wait times for riders and drivers are below three minutes

Across four observed casual carpooling locations, median rider wait times were all below 2.5 minutes, and median driver wait times were two minutes or lower. Based on an intercept survey of casual carpooling participants at 10 sites, respondents perceived their wait to be longer than it actually is.

4. Demographics of casual carpoolers are consistent with users of other shared-mobility services

Those surveyed tended to be higher income (8r3 percent had a 2013 household income of over 50,000 US dollars), employed full-time, between the ages of 25 and 55, and Caucasian (65 percent).

Even with limited notoriety and growth, casual carpooling is proving it has a positive impact on transportation ecosystems and will likely remain a notable transportation option in the years to come.

Do you carpool? What encourages you to carpool? Share your thoughts in the comment section.

Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.


  • professorxavior
    16. June 2016 at 19:30

    I am very interested in the details of your study. How may I obtain the full results?

  • Susan Shaheen
    20. June 2016 at 21:40

    Thank you for your interest in our research. The paper is available in the Journal of Transport Policy. Here’s the reference: Shaheen, Susan, Nelson Chan, and Teresa Gaynor (2016). “Casual Carpooling in the San Francisco Bay Area: Understanding Characteristics, Behaviors, and Motivations,” Transport Policy.


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Despite rising congestion and fuel prices, there are still a certain set of individuals who enjoy driving from daily commutes to long road journeys. Due to the slow economic growth, ownership costs are getting considerably high. To make these journeys more affordable and beneficial and still gain the advantage of using your own car, start sharing a ride.