Taxi-Sharing Boosts Energy Efficiency, But Will Riders Get on Board?

Taxi-Sharing Boosts Energy Efficiency, But Will Riders Get on Board?

Many of us have had the deflating experience of arriving in a city by train or plane only to encounter a line at the taxi stand that seems to last longer than the trip to get there. But how many people waiting in that queue at, say, New York City’s Penn Station could be sharing cabs to the same destination?

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) set out to answer that question, analyzing a year’s worth of New York taxi trips. They concluded that the total amount of time that taxis spent traveling could have been reduced 32 percent by shared cabs, with passengers riding no more than an extra five minutes. That reduction in travel time would result in less pollution and traffic, the researchers said, though they did not specify how much. Their work was published Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Carlo Ratti, director of MIT’s Senseable City Lab and one of the paper’s authors, said the research is meant to quantify the benefits of taxi-sharing. “We were ourselves very surprised with the results, which are quite striking, of how much more efficiently we could use the mobility infrastructure in cities,” he said.

The researchers also looked at whether such increased efficiency would be possible in other cities that have a lower density of taxis than New York. “You still find that there’s a huge potential for sharing,” Ratti said.

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