iPhone App Lets New Yorkers Share Car Service Rides


photo: Emily Carmichael

Anyone who has ever tried hailing a cab in New York City downtown on a weekend night knows it can be a combat sport. And then try getting that cabbie to take you to Brooklyn. If you live in Brooklyn along the G line just getting around by bus or subway can drive you mad. And things have just gotten worse for public transit riders. Fortunately for New Yorkers with iPhones (and soon, any smart phone), a new application called "Weeels", may alleviate some of the pain by giving riders the ability to order and share a car service for immediate pick-up--a faster, more customizable kind of public transit.
photo: Emily Carmichael
App Debuts As MTA Cuts Services
Just this past weekend, the MTA reduced service and cut entire subway and bus lines to improve their budget outlook. Two subway lines that run between Manhattan and Queens, the V and W, made their final runs this past Friday night. Subways and buses will start to run less often, especially at night and on the weekend. In total, Thirty seven bus routes were eliminated and service on the notorious G line was reduced.

Where Weeels Comes In...
Weeels aims to complement existing mass transit options, especially in the outer boroughs, where yellow taxis are hard to find and, on late nights and weekends, when subway service is reduced.

Weeels presents a model for user-driven and efficient "social transit" to coordinate riders and cars. A Weeels rider can chose to ride alone or to be matched with another rider traveling along a similar route. Before deciding how to travel, riders see the prices for rides and preview the profiles of potential ride partners. Because Weeels is aimed at places and times where and when cabs can be hard to find -- think late at night, after parties, after work, or in places where public transit is lacking -- it works directly with city car services to deliver taxis on demand, and at premium, pre-negotiated rates. A yellow cab version is coming soon too.

....And How It Works
You tell your phone where you're going, press a button, and let it search for others around you going in that direction. Whether it finds a match or not, the app can also call you your own car service. For now, it works best in Brooklyn.

Unlike existing services, which require users to carpool or hail yellow cabs first, Weeels works on mobile devices in real time and is powered by an experienced car service dispatcher and dispatches the cars directly. Weeels also evaluates parameters set by users and arranges rides automatically rather than requiring users to browse for and arrange rides themselves.

Maximizing Person Miles Per Gallon
"By building a social transit system for New York, we aim to maximize the 'person miles per gallon' (PMPG) of the cars on our roads," says co-founder David Mahfouda. "Say you have a car that gets 40 mpg. When it carries one person, that car gets 40 pmpg. But when it carries three people, that car will get 120 pmpg. Thinking in terms of pmpg puts agency back in the hands of drivers and passengers, and helps both users and technologists understand that they can contribute to both making road transit efficient and sustainable."

Weeels is currently available in NYC for the iPhone. Editions for other cities and other mobile platforms are in development. For more information, go to www.weeels.org or the iTunes app store.

In the interests of full disclosure Alex Pasternack, a sometimes TreeHugger contributor, is a co-founder of Weeels.

More on New York City Transportation:
The Solar Taxi's Speedy Trip Through New York City
New York City's Hybrid Taxi Mandate Faces Legal Setback

Tags: Buses | Car Sharing | Driving | New York City | Public Transportation

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