Carpooling initiative that pays members launched in South Bend

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A carpooling project that incentivises workers who have limited transport options by paying them 50 cents a mile to be involved is being launched in an Indianan city.

Hytch Rewards has been named an official tech partner of the city of South Bend’s, Commuters Trust – set up last year by former mayor and Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg.

The initiative is working with employers to help low-income and part-time workers with unreliable transportation options to be able to commute to and from their jobs, after it was revealed that it was the primary barrier to maintaining employment for approximately 10,000 residents.

“The lack of dependable transportation – or no vehicle at all – makes it difficult for some people to consistently get to work on time, or forces them to turn down work opportunities when public transit options aren’t available,” said Aaron Steiner, program director for Commuters Trust. “Our program solves a specific problem around access to employment. Ultimately, we think Hytch Rewards will become an important piece of the puzzle, to provide local workers more options to commute to work and reduce transportation as a barrier to employment.”

The Hytch mobile app will be used to verify shared rides in real time and distribute per-mile ​cash incentives to passengers and drivers. ​Any South Bend resident can download the app and coordinate with friends or co-workers to provide transportation for the program. Not only can they earn up to 50 cents per mile when carpooling with a program participant, because every qualified mile earns carbon offsets, drivers can also eliminate the carbon footprint for their daily commute.

Hytch launched its commute for cash rewards platform in the company’s home city of Nashville in early 2018, and is now being rolled out to other markets including Seattle and San Francisco. In those cities, Hytch partners with employers, brands and governments to reduce traffic congestion and emissions. However, in the smaller market of South Bend (population: 102,245), the primary application will be to coordinate a peer-to-peer shared ride alternatives for workers with limited public transportation options. For overnight and weekend workers in a city the size of South Bend, public transportation may not always be operating.

“This private-public partnership connects people to their workplace,” said Mark A. Cleveland, co-founder and CEO of Hytch. “By directly rewarding people for networking within their most familiar communities, we inspire carpooling at scale, avoid the fixed costs of mass transit and carve out the venture-capital-funded middleman. South Bend is showing other low-density and car-dependent cities, as well as rural areas, how to get it done at a very low cost.”

Funding for the Commuters Trust program was provided by the city winning a US$1million grant through the ​Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge​.

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James joined the Traffic Technology International team in 2017. Previously he was Assistant Editor on an engineering title for several years and has worked for various other trade magazines before that. James is happily married and has a young daughter and son who keep him busy.