Carpooling is the act of sharing cars, mostly personal cars, when traveling. A driver, instead of traveling from A to B alone in the car, looks for passengers to fill in all or almost all of the seats with each passenger contributing a given amount that is generally less than he/she could have spent in let’s say a cab. This type of arrangement already happens though scarcely in Nakuru where car owners traveling from Nakuru to Nairobi or Nakuru to Eldoret go to the bus terminus to look for passengers traveling to the same destination to accompany them. The passengers are normally charged the same rate as PSV matatus would have charged.
The benefits of carpooling to the car owner is that he normally gets back his travel fuel cost and retains some change as extra income. For a four seater vehicle, the car owner will earn Kshs. 1,200 by charging each passenger Kshs. 300 from Nakuru to Nairobi. His fuel cost between Nakuru and Nairobi can range from Kshs. 800 to Kshs 1,500.
The advantages of carpooling that include savings on a person’s spending on fuel and parking fees should entice many Kenyans to embrace the service across the country especially in Nairobi. Carpooling also provides enormous benefits to the environment and to our roads as the number of cars on the roads are drastically reduced. If we assume each vehicle would carry at least 5 people (driver plus 4 passengers) from our homes to town each day, then each vehicle carrying four passengers eliminates 4 vehicles on the roads. Assuming that currently there are 500,000 vehicles each carrying only one person, then with maximum acceptance of carpooling we can theoretically reduce this number to 100,000 vehicles only, an 80% reduction of vehicles from our roads.
Then traffic congestion will be a thing of the past. Carbon Emission from vehicles shall have been reduced by more than 80%. If a car owner uses let’s say Kshs. 10,000 on fuel per month, then with carpooling contributions he will only use Kshs 2,000, saving a whooping 80% on the fuel. What other reason do you need to champion the carpooling service?
To help in this quest, a group of young Kenyans have come up with a practical web and app based carpooling service that is intended on linking car owners/drivers to passengers and vise versa. There platform that is called Travel Buddy (www.travelbuddy.co.ke) seeks to register Drivers and Passengers and link those who plan traveling to same destination.
Here is how it works for the driver:
- As a driver you will first need to register into Travel Buddy and create a schedule. The schedule consists of travel route, travel date, travel time, pick up points and the amount of money you intend to charge your passengers. You travel route will be shown on Nokia Maps. (Hey Travel Buddy, most people are on Android, why did you choose Nokia Maps?)
- On travel date you ensure that you arrive at the pick up point shortly before the travel time as defined in the travel schedule.
- You reach the passengers’ destination, the passenger checks out via Travel Buddy and your payment is sent to you via m-money (MPESA, YU-Cash or Airtel Mone). I don’t know why Orange Money is not included.
As passenger here is what you need to do:
- You will need to register into Travel Buddy then search for schedules available. Get the listed vehicles going to your destination and compare prices.
- Once you identify the vehicle that you want to use, you reserve your seat. You may reserve as many seats as available.
- Before the departure date, you will need to make payment for the seat(s) either via MPESA, Yu Cash, Airtel Money or Credit Card. As soon as you make the payment, you will receive a text message confirming payment and a description and registration credentials of the vehicle. The text will also contain the pickup location defined for the trip.Then what’s left to do is to enjoy your trip.
After I went through the above “how it works” section in the website I asked Travel Buddy a few questions that they have responded to. Here are the questions and the corresponding answers. Italics are further questions to Travel Buddy and I hope they will respond to them as comments to this post:
Qn. Hi Travel buddy, I have a few questions concerning your system. How do you ensure that a driver is genuine and not a con-man? One can post a fake trip to con willing travelers.
Ans. Hi, thanks for your questions which are valid concerns and here is how we handle them in our system. A driver only receive payment on arrival at their destination and only after all the passengers that have checked in ,have checked out. And also all users are required to enter their telephone numbers which have to be registered by the mobile networks.
Travel Buddy has partnered with police and telecos to ensure both physical and financial security of all parties concerned?
Qn. The cars are not PSV. How do you deal with insurance issues and any other legal issues?
Ans. We only charge our commission for PSV vehicles i.e matatus and taxis. Personal vehicles don’t get charged a commission.
How does this safeguard passengers against incidences of accidents?
Qn. If someone misses a trip, how do you help in getting him his money back?
Ans. A passenger is required to check in if they don’t they get their money back via MPESA et al….A driver needs to ensure all the passengers check in/check out order to recieve payment.
Qn. If refund is possible, how do you ensure that you don’t receive false claims of missed trips?
Ans. Based on the check in and check out records we can handle issues arising as regarding the false claims.
Qn. How do you get your share from the trips posted?
Ans. Our share comes from the transactions we process on Travel Buddy.
You have indicated above that you don’t charge commission on private vehicles, aren’t private vehicles the bulk of your customers?
Isn’t Travel Buddy a great product? I ask as many Kenyans as possible to register. I also urge the transport ministry to embrace carpooling as a way of reducing traffic jams. If you have queries for Travel Buddy you may contact them on Twitter here, or Email them here or Like their FB page here. You may also contact us for further clarification and we will follow up with them.