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Tired of a long commute? Vanpooling could be the future of getting to work quicker and cleaner

ABC Business logoABC Business 21/08/2019

a group of people looking at a laptop: Commuters can read, do work, or rest on their way to work. (Facebook: Arlington Transport Partners) © Provided by Australian Broadcasting Corporation Commuters can read, do work, or rest on their way to work. (Facebook: Arlington Transport Partners) As cities continue to expand and commute times increase, a new form of bespoke travel is reducing travel times and helping workers get home quicker.

According to data from the annual Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA), Sydney's average daily commute is 71 minutes, followed closely by Brisbane at an hour and six minutes.

Griffith University's Cities Research Institute Associate Professor Matthew Burke said new forms of shared and on-demand transport need to be considered to reduce traffic congestion and reduce commuter time.

"Cities are changing geographically, as is where people live, and work continues to change," he said.

"As people move to outer suburbs for larger houses or land their commute becomes greater — and everyone is driving."

Dr Burke said carpooling and shared travel had plummeted in Australian cities in recent years with many T3 lanes removed.

"We just don't share," he said.

"We have 1.2 persons per car and basically in suburbia now there is a car per person between the ages of 18-80.

"Everyone says they needs their own personal vehicle. It loads up the system."

Enter vanpooling

In North America, a new form of transportation called vanpooling offers workers the ability to get from home to work via smaller, bespoke vans.

"It's not people getting on a conventional bus or train but going across suburbs in a collective vehicle like a shuttle," Dr Burke said.

"Ten to 14 people are in each shuttle and it moves from where the passengers live into multiple stops or a designated area near their workplaces."

Transportation consultants Arlington Transport Partners, based in the US state of Virginia, have been actively encouraging commuters to look at vanpooling as an option.

Their mantra is "drive less, waste less, stress less", focusing on the benefits for commuters and the environment.

Shuttle drivers make the same commute as the passengers with the cost split among the riders including insurance, fuel, maintenance, and parking.

A recent study by the group found that vanpools were more flexible, better customised, and put in place faster than new bus routes.

Dr Burke said this form of transport could benefit most cities throughout Australia.

"Look at south-east Queensland. It really stretches 200 kilometres from Noosa all the way to the Tweed border, and that is the geography which people travel from home to work," he said.

"By pooling or sharing, that takes hundreds of cars off the road."

Buses on demand

A trial in Sydney's Macquarie Park is currently underway where on-demand shuttles are picking up residents from their doorstep.

The unique style of public transport is part of the NSW Government's On Demand public transport pilot program to help residents move easier around their suburbs.

Serviced by Keoride, residents who live or work within 7.5km of the Macquarie Park precinct can book rides up to 30 minutes prior to departure.

"I hope we see more and more of this type of transport appearing in Australian suburbs," Dr Burke said.

"Services like these take cars off the road, which in turn eases traffic congestion and makes commuting easier. It's a win, win."

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