Because most of the existing U.S. housing stock is built in the suburban pattern, that is where the majority of Americans are going to have to live, for several generations. It is a high cost lifestyle because of the high cost of getting around in one automobile per adult, and the even higher cost of providing mass transit service to such low-density areas. For younger, poorer generations to live in these places affordability, different ways will have to be found to get around. To allow young singles and couples, and seniors, to live without owning their own cars, families with children to get by with just one, and moderate-income households, a growing share, to afford that one car. For trips outside of walking and bicycling range, this probably requires some kind of carpooling.
This is something I realized 20 years ago when, as an employee at the NYC Department of City Planning, I was asked to come up with a transportation proposal that would work for Staten Island, New York’s suburban borough. I suggested dynamic carpooling, with drivers and riders matched for trips using the technology of the time – touch tone phones and conference calling – with a fixed fare. As it happens, Uber has introduced a new carsharing application of its own, using the more advanced information technology now available. According to the Daily News:
“Uber is introducing a carpooling service that will match riders in the five boroughs with other travelers going in the same direction, bringing down prices by as much as 50%.”
Unfortunately, however, Uber’s computer app, even if it works great, would not come close to what is required to meet the needs of those seeking affordable transportation in suburban America. That would require a different plan.