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Ridesharing Models

Ridesharing models may refer to programs in which one or more organization operates the same vehicle during different periods of time (vehicle sharing), to models in which passenger trips are combined for passengers with a common destination (carpooling and vanpooling), or to models that use global positioning systems to calculate a driver’s route and arrange a shared ride (real-time ridesharing also referred to as ride-hailing). The goal of ridesharing is to fill otherwise empty seats and to maximize the number of clients served with a limited number of vehicles, ultimately saving on costs. Lyft and Uber are examples of real-time ridesharing that have been increasing in popularity, moving outside of urban settings and into suburban and rural areas.

Vanpools are made up of groups of 5 to 15 passengers who ride together in vans to a common destination, most often to their place of employment. Vanpools use vehicles larger than cars, but smaller than buses. Vanpooling is typically used by rural residents to travel long distances to their worksites. Transit agencies, employers, groups of employees, or other organizations can organize vanpools. Some employers may choose to pay for the vanpool, or offer discounts to employees who use the service.

There is evidence that suggests that carpool and rideshare programs can increase mobility and improve quality of life. These programs also reduce emissions, traffic congestion, and vehicle miles traveled.

Examples of Ridesharing Programs

  • The Dakota Area Resource Transportation Services Vehicle Coordination Program (DARTS) is a vehicle sharing program in Dakota County, Minnesota. DARTS is a community-based nonprofit that aims to connect community members to resources that help them remain active and connected to their community. DARTS lends buses to local non-profit organizations. For example, the organization provided a bus to area churches to provide rides to church for residents unable to drive.
  • Mason Transit Authority (MTA) offers a vanpooling program for residents of rural Mason County, Washington. MTA provides a van, resources for joining or starting a vanpool, and assists in rider recruitment using a computerized ride matching service. The vanpool program uses volunteer drivers and individual fares based on mileage and number of riders.
  • JAUNT provides regional transportation services to 7 counties in central Virginia, 4 of which are rural. JAUNT provides rides to work, healthcare appointments, recreational activities, and other destinations. JAUNT currently operates 85 vehicles and uses federal, state, and local funds to supplement fares received from riders.

Considerations for Implementation

A major challenge in ridesharing models is the amount of coordination necessary to allow for multiple agencies to use vehicles at times that are beneficial to their organization and clients. For instance, many organizations may need vehicles during normal business hours, while weekends and evenings may not be as busy.

Another challenge may be the responsibilities associated with providing maintenance for shared vehicles. Organizations need to make clear expectations around who will be responsible for routine and emergency maintenance of shared vehicles. In addition to deciding on vehicle maintenance, organizations should agree on who will be allowed to operate the vehicles and what kind of insurance is needed.

Perceptions of carpooling and vanpooling are a significant challenge in implementing these types of programs. For example, riders may see sharing a vehicle as a constraint on his/her independence or may not want to be a part of the social and interpersonal situations that car and vanpools pose. Research suggests that improving awareness through increasing trust and improving flexibility may increase carpool use.

Resources to Learn More

Vehicle Sharing Among Human Service Providers in Minnesota: Steps to Address Barriers
This report provides background information on vehicle sharing, potential barriers, recommendations, and case studies.
Author(s): Douma, F. & Garry, T.
Organization(s): Minnesota Council on Transportation Access
Date: 9/2013