A pilot carpooling program for San Francisco’s BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) system may soon eliminate parking hassles for commuters by guaranteeing that carpoolers will have a space waiting for them at the station.
This week, Bay Area commuters who catch the train at the Dublin/Pleasanton station were introduced to Scoop, a mobile app that connects commuters, who can then carpool to the station and park for free in a reserved parking spot. The project was developed as part of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC’s) 511 Carpool Program, which is managed by WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff.
“BART’s parking lots fill up around 7:30 a.m., and commuters rush to get to the station so they can get a parking spot,” said Rachel Zack, innovative mobility lead for WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff. “This creates two problems for BART: an inability to encourage a spread of the peak travel period in the morning, and a parking capacity issue.”
According to a 2015 survey, 99 percent of BART passengers drive alone to the station. That fact prompted an interest in finding ways to encourage more commuters to carpool. Rather than create more carpool permit spaces, 511 Carpool Program staff chose to partner with Scoop Technologies, Inc., which developed a mobile app with the capability to verify carpool behavior.
Now, commuters who use the app and partner with other carpoolers have a guaranteed parking space held for them until 10 a.m.
“BART’s peak capacity issues are challenging for commuters. Many people would prefer to ride the train later in the morning, but don’t have that option because there is nowhere for them to park,” Zack said. “Scoop allows commuters to connect with each other, share a ride, and skip the early morning rush to the station.”
Scoop matches its users with their carpool partner the night before and sends a printable placard to the drivers headed to the Dublin/Pleasanton BART station to display on their dashboard. Scoop then sends BART the list of carpooling license plates for enforcement the following day.
On Jan. 23, the Dublin/Pleasanton station became the first of the 33 proposed stations to offer this service. It was made possible through a $358,000 Mobility on Demand Sandbox grant received from the Federal Transit Administration in October.
As the program manager of MTC’s 511 Carpool Program, WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff developed the pilot idea and logistics, united Scoop with BART, assisted BART and Scoop in writing the grant application, and coordinated the implementation and marketing of the program.
“This project is really the pinnacle of what we have been trying to achieve with the 511 Carpool Program over the past year,” Zack said. “We are leveraging new technologies provided by the private sector to address our region’s transportation challenges. It is exciting that we’re implementing a solution that creates wins for everyone involved: MTC is getting more people carpooling, BART is getting more people through their stations without building more parking, Scoop is getting more people into their app, and, most importantly, Bay Area commuters have a convenient new mobility and parking option.”
MTC is hoping to use this pilot program as a springboard to other innovative partnerships and applications for carpool technology in the Bay Area. Zack is hopeful that the project demonstrates that carpooling is a viable option to aid with capacity issues where the technology and value proposition are right for the commuter.
“I hope that the success of the program creates strong demand for this technology in other areas,” Zack said. “However, even without this specific technology, opportunities to create innovative new solutions for old problems by applying new technology exist everywhere.”
One of the early challenges was making sure BART and Scoop each understood their roles and expectations. WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff helped bring each side together to ensure all concerns were explained and addressed.
“Our understanding of government agencies, as well as our strong working relationship with Scoop, enabled us to make sure concerns were articulated clearly and addressed,” Zack said. “This project defines collaboration. It’s exciting to participate in a first-of-its-kind partnership.”
In addition to making things easier for commuters, Zack said the system will have positive congestion management benefits.
“One thing I love about this project is that the drivers are already headed to the station,” Zack said. “We are filling seats in cars that are on the roadway.”
She is looking forward to expanding that vision to other stations in the near future.
“It has been awesome to work on a transportation solution that will help so many Bay Area commuters,” she said. “The timeline on this is fast, and I hope the impact is just as fast.”
Editor’s Note: To learn more about WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff’s advisory services and projects, visit www.usadvisory.wsp-pb.com.
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