With the right infrastructure investments, it’s possible to make highway traffic in the US disappear in as little as five years, Logan Green, Lyft's CEO, told Business Insider in a recent interview.
"If we set a big enough goal and make the right investments in this moment, five years from now it is easily foreseeable that we’ve completely achieved this goal and there is no more traffic on our highway system," Green said.
These “right investments,” though, aren’t what you might expect. Green doesn’t want to widen highways to kill traffic. Instead, he wants the government to invest in a nationwide expansion of ‘smart lanes,’ which are basically carpool lanes that charge vehicles with less than three passengers for access.
Green, along with Lyft co-founder and president John Zimmer, published an op-ed on Tuesday outlining how exactly this might work, but basically, the co-founders propose that by building out more ‘smart lanes’ people will be more incentivised to ride-share, thus reducing traffic.
"These smart lanes will have dynamic pricing to control for congestion, so they will be able to guarantee that that road can flow at 45 miles per hour or 50 miles per hour minimum. You then create a free option, so you say any person with three or more people in their car gets in this lane for free," Green said. "Those dual incentives will create an environment that will encourage all kinds of high-occupancy commuting."
Lyft obviously has a vested interest in ride-sharing. In addition to its ride-hailing service, the company also offers a ride-sharing product called Lyft Line that allows people to easily carpool to their destinations.
Green said that Lyft is pushing this initiative forward, though, because current solutions to reducing traffic are not working and don't provide a sustainable solution for the future.
"Our formula has been small investments in public transportation and very large investments in widening freeways and that combination guarantees traffic gets worse, which is exactly what we are seeing in city after city around the country," he said. "We are on a pretty poor trajectory today, but this is getting worse and worse and it’s having a detrimental impact on city life. But at the same time there’s a very simple solution."
Green said Lyft is currently in discussions with policymakers about its ideas to reduce traffic and that, for the most part, government officials have been receptive.
"We are reaching out and having conversations with the Trump administration and then a number of different policymakers on both sides of the aisles," Green said. “There is a lot of open-mindedness.”
The idea of congestion charging isn’t exactly new. Cities like London, Singapore, and Stockholm have all experimented with similar models. In fact, Stockholm saw a 22% decrease in traffic volume when it implemented a trial for congestion charging in 2006.
But Lyft's plan is different in that it offers a free option for vehicles that have multiple passengers, Green said. This not only encourages ride-sharing, but it also helps democratize access to this system, he said.
"Where a number of these projects have fallen short is in terms of having a free option. That is sort of not a consistent ingredient of these plans and I think that’s critical to create the right incentives and to create the right political support," Green said.
"You don’t want these lanes to be something that only the wealthy can afford. You want to create the right incentives so that everybody can enjoy a lane that is guaranteed to never have traffic and by having a free option along with every smart lane you broaden the base of people who are going to be able to enjoy it."
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