"Butts on the seat" (Peput Penkkiin) is the catch phrase for a ride-sharing app the city of Espoo will be trialling until mid-January as one strategy to achieve emissions-free status by the year 2030. City leaders also want to ensure the efficient use of the stock of private cars in the region.
Participants in the experiment can download the app on their Android or iOS devices to either offer a ride in their cars or try to find someone to drive them to their destination.
The trial focuses on Espoo Centre as well as Otaniemi, Keilaniemi, Tapiola and western Espoo. Designers of the app also expect the option to be used as an element of commuter trips alongside public transportation and city bikes.
No money will change hands during the pilot as it is based on volunteerism. Participants will however, get a chance to win an exercise voucher as well as cinema tickets for supporting the experiment.
Easier than a Facebook group
So far, some 400 people have used the carpool app, but some have wondered if it is any better than turning to Facebook to find a local ride-sharing group.
"The application is better suited to large numbers," said Johanna Nyberg, Espoo city traffic control manager. She noted that once users download the app, they don’t have to search for and join a particular group.
"In a Facebook group there can be many trips that are not personally relevant," she noted. App users simply create an account, enter their contact information and then they’re ready to offer a ride or find one.
Once the pilot ends on 10 January, the city will assess the project’s performance. "We will also evaluate the potential for car sharing in Espoo."
Although the app is experimental at this stage, it is not at all unlikely that the service will continue in its present form even after 10 January.
Nyberg pointed out that Espoo's long-term goal is to become a carbon-neutral city. Traffic is responsible for a large proportion of the city's carbon dioxide emissions.
"We have not yet measured the reduction of carbon dioxide emitted using the app. We will calculate it for our final report," she noted.
The project was implemented at a total cost of 45,000 euros, the city said.