Houston is a car-dependent city and Houstonians spend approximately 75 hours a year in traffic. Carpooling is a safer and more comfortable way to connect people and where they need to go. As Houston continues to grow – the city added 250 people one day in the past year — transportation options are crucial in connecting people to where they need to go.
What alternative to driving your own vehicle? Carpooling.
Carpooling has many benefits, and it is essential that carpooling models provide both a safe and consistent experience for passengers while meeting the needs of the cities in which they operate. In my opinion, responsible carpooling has three components: safety, fleet optimization and sustainability.
The most obvious benefit is security. The most important goal of ridesharing companies is to transport passengers from point A to point B; everyone in the vehicle is valuable cargo. If you’re drinking, for example, you can ditch your personal vehicle and call in for a ride. Having professionally trained drivers and their mission to ensure you arrive at your destination safely is the most important priority.
I founded Alto with a mission to create a safer carpooling experience for passengers and drivers. For me, personal safety while riding or riding should be a rideshare company’s top priority. Safety is at the heart of Alto’s business model, and it’s built into everything we do. At the center of our business are our W-2 employee drivers who undergo background checks and a driver safety training program. Other features include on-board monitoring, telematics tracking and built-in location and status tracking of your Alto. These features are key to creating a safer way to travel and building customer relationships.
Responsible ride-sharing services must also have set wait times. Calling for an on-demand ride and receiving a two-minute pick-up time is unsustainable and not good for cities. It doesn’t make sense for your ride to arrive faster than an ambulance. Such short wait times encourage more cars to be put on the road and increase the number of drivers driving through a small part of town waiting for the next transport request. More cars on the road lead to traffic congestion and even the slowing down of traffic lanes reserved for public transit. Even extending the wait time for pick-up to 10-15 minutes can significantly reduce the number of vehicles needed to serve customers, change the way customers approach hailing a ride, and with a little planning, create greater efficiency for the city, customers and business.
Rideshare fleets with sustainable assets are key to acting as a responsible industry in cities and demonstrate the positive impact of a business. For many years we have been hearing about the great electric vehicle (EV) revolution for personal vehicles. But what about carpool fleets? I think ridesharing services will continue to grow as a transportation alternative and I think the ridesharing industry should prioritize electrification.
It’s not enough to put vehicles on the road without trying to make the industry more sustainable and climate-conscious. Houston, a powerhouse in the energy sector, is first the green energy transition and I think Houstonians, as well as drivers across the country, want to see ride-sharing fleets of electric vehicles.
My company Alto, for example, announced its vision to transition our entire fleet to electric vehicles over the next two years. There is little discussion about the transition to electric vehicles for fleets and I am proud that Alto leads the industry in this regard. This EV vision is an example of how a ridesharing company can build a better and more responsible industry, and these steps also provide Houstonians with a more responsible and sustainable transportation solution.
As Houston continues to grow, Houstonians will need transportation alternatives that meet diverse travel demands and that don’t overwhelm or impair the city’s transportation capabilities. Safety protocols, optimized fleets, and sustainability are all critical factors needed in a transportation framework to keep up with Houston’s economic and population growth. To get to that dinner reservation, that game at the Toyota Center, or that conference at the Convention Center, Houstonians should have access to a transportation alternative—carpooling—to get them to their destination in a responsible, safe, and sustainable way.
Will Coleman is the CEO of Dallas Altoa luxury ride-sharing service that currently operates in Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, and Washington, D.C.