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Great Piece About Weeels at Grist

“Cars already exist,” said Mahfouda. “As a designer, the most responsible thing is to reuse and redesign what we have. So we looked at broadly repurposing cars.”

There’s a great piece about Weeels at Grist by Sarah Goodyear, which hits on a lot of reasons why smarter transportation is both desired and important right now, from the need for faster and more efficient ways to get around our cities to the need to cut back on waste.

Weeels Talks About Networking, Excess Capacity, and Repair at Urban Omnibus

The online magazine Urban Omnibus places a wonderful emphasis on design, but it’s also a street-side enthusiast of a related subject: smartly distributing resources in a way that can improve our cities, from private cars to office space to regional rail.

So Dave and I were delighted to talk to the editor, Cassim Shepard, about some of the thinking behind Weeels and how we got started. Here’s a longish excerpt (and read the whole thing here):

UO: The excess capacity in existing infrastructure is something we think about a lot. Say a little more about how this line of thought influenced you as you came up with Weeels? David: I started thinking seriously about using existing infrastructure as a design strategy after reading Christopher Alexander’s The Timeless Way of Building. He dedicates a chapter to repair that makes the case for re-use (“Every act of building…is an act of repair”), not from an ecological perspective, but from a truly environmental perspective.

Christopher Alexander is particularly interested in the positive potential of concerted human attention — if we are all repairers/builders, then our environment can be exponentially denser, richer, etc. I see that ethic in projects that deal with excess capacity as well – information and information technology are used as tools to activate or accentuate human agency and attention. Weeels poses this question explicitly by providing an opportunity for a large community of users to improve their environment by acting together.

I love trains, but the train infrastructure in the United States is impoverished. If you’re going to think about mobility in the context of the United States, you have to address the automobile directly. So I started to ask, What if the car is not a private transit vehicle, but a public transit vehicle?

Something about the idea seemed inevitable to me, perhaps the correspondence between our digital information systems and physical road/car systems. I built some computer models to approximate the behaviors of these socialized cars. Then the iPhone came out and all of a sudden many of my ideas seemed less like science fiction. So I started mocking up a smart-phone interface — and a few years later, here we are…

Alex: The advent of social networking, largely with the rise of Facebook, held out the promise of an interesting technological solution to excess capacity: more responsive shared knowledge, and the many efficiency benefits that could come with it. Imagine a smart version of Craigslist. Now, for instance, we could perhaps know if someone in our friend group was getting rid of a book that we wanted to read — or had extra room in their car or in their cab….

Weeels appeals to me because it makes use of our networks to tackle a very straightforward problem that we intuitively know can and should be solved through sharing. Potentially, its solution is a very elegant one: Weeels unites our need for mobility, our desire to save money and our responsibility to be more efficient in our use of natural resources, all underwritten by our willingness to share.

UO: Given the trouble the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) has had setting up cab sharing stations that are actually used in Manhattan, how do you see Weeels as a successful tool?

Alex: Rather than asking people to wait at a few locations for a cab, imagine that taxi stands can be anywhere…

It’s a really nice interview (and they gave our posters a shout-out too!). Thanks Cassim and the rest of the Urban Omnibus gang!

Remember to try Weeels this weekend (and let us know how it goes at feedback at weeels dot org).

Weeels on Treehugger: "iPhone App Lets New Yorkers Share Car Service Rides"

Anyone who has ever tried hailing a cab in New York City downtown on a weekend night knows it can be a combat sport. And then try getting that cabbie to take you to Brooklyn. If you live in Brooklyn along the G line just getting around by bus or subway can drive you mad. And things have just gotten worse for public transit riders. Fortunately for New Yorkers with iPhones (and soon, any smart phone), a new application called “Weeels”, may alleviate some of the pain by giving riders the ability to order and share a car service for immediate pick-up–a faster, more customizable kind of public transit.

App Debuts As MTA Cuts Services
Just this past weekend, the MTA reduced service and cut entire subway and bus lines to improve their budget outlook. Two subway lines that run between Manhattan and Queens, the V and W, made their final runs this past Friday night. Subways and buses will start to run less often, especially at night and on the weekend. In total, Thirty seven bus routes were eliminated and service on the notorious G line was reduced.

Where Weeels Comes In…
Weeels aims to complement existing mass transit options, especially in the outer boroughs, where yellow taxis are hard to find and, on late nights and weekends, when subway service is reduced.

Weeels presents a model for user-driven and efficient “social transit” to coordinate riders and cars. A Weeels rider can chose to ride alone or to be matched with another rider traveling along a similar route. Before deciding how to travel, riders see the prices for rides and preview the profiles of potential ride partners. Because Weeels is aimed at places and times where and when cabs can be hard to find – think late at night, after parties, after work, or in places where public transit is lacking – it works directly with city car services to deliver taxis on demand, and at premium, pre-negotiated rates. A yellow cab version is coming soon too. .…And

How It Works
You tell your phone where you’re going, press a button, and let it search for others around you going in that direction. Whether it finds a match or not, the app can also call you your own car service. For now, it works best in Brooklyn.

Unlike existing services, which require users to carpool or hail yellow cabs first, Weeels works on mobile devices in real time and is powered by an experienced car service dispatcher and dispatches the cars directly. Weeels also evaluates parameters set by users and arranges rides automatically rather than requiring users to browse for and arrange rides themselves.

Maximizing Person Miles Per Gallon
“By building a social transit system for New York, we aim to maximize the ‘person miles per gallon’ (PMPG) of the cars on our roads,” says co-founder David Mahfouda. “Say you have a car that gets 40 mpg. When it carries one person, that car gets 40 pmpg. But when it carries three people, that car will get 120 pmpg. Thinking in terms of pmpg puts agency back in the hands of drivers and passengers, and helps both users and technologists understand that they can contribute to both making road transit efficient and sustainable.”

Weeels is currently available in NYC for the iPhone. Editions for other cities and other mobile platforms are in development. For more information, go to www.weeels.org or the iTunes app store.

In the interests of full disclosure Alex Pasternack, a sometimes TreeHugger contributor, is a co-founder of Weeels.

Read the article at Treehugger.com

Weeels on Living Labs Global Mobility Report

Living Labs Global is a “non-profit association based in Copenhagen (Denmark) with the objective to promote innovation in services and mobility in cities.” From The Living Labs Global Mobility Report blog: WEEELS, CABULOUS

…Weeels is a New York-based app built by a team concerned with improving urban life, transportation, and the environment. The app connects users to people to share travel with, decreasing the rate and hopefully increasing the speed with which one finds a ride.

Read the full post about Weeels, and Cabulous, a San Francisco based app aimed at collaborating cab drivers and riders.

Weeels on The City Fix

The City Fix, a sustainable urban mobility blog, wrote up Weeels: 

With Weeels, you can reduce personal fuel consumption - and save money! - by finding people to share your ride. Photo via digital_freak.“

Need a Cab in NYC? Use WEEELS!

Nope, it’s not a typo! We’re talkin’ about Weeels, a new online tool to help you “save time, save money, save energy and save space” by finding people to share a cab with you.

Here’s how it works: First, you download the app for your smartphone (for now, it’s only compatible with iPhone, but a Web app and apps for other phones are coming soon); then, tell your phone where you are going, press a button, and search for other people near you who are going in the same direction.

Whether you find potential cab-sharers or not, Weeels automatically calls you a livery cab (yellow cab version coming soon), and your phone shows exactly how much the cab will charge – a premium, pre-negotiated rate – to take you to your destination.

Weeels is working to create a more efficient, affordable and friendly mode of transportation in areas of the city where cabs can be hard to find and public transit is lacking (particularly as public transit faces further cuts).

Check out their fun little infomercial!

For now, Weeels works best in Brooklyn and lower Manhattan, but it’s expanding and even plans to incorporate other cities. A full launch is planned for the end of the month.

As we’ve written about before, smartphone apps have revolutionized sustainable urban mobility, including ridesharing.  Taxicabs, especially, are going mainstream, with apps like CabSense that use real-time GPS data to help users find the best place to catch a cab. As this interactive graphic shows, taxi flow really reveals the pulse of a city. Way to go, Weeels.

Shareable.net shares Weeels

Shareable writes us up in a nice article on the sharing industry. “…The growth of the Internet and mobile technology has made sharing more practical–and … this trend has the potential to minimize consumption, by redefining wealth as access to stuff instead of the accumulation of stuff.” That’s what we’re about here at Weeels! Here’s part of the article:

We also just heard from journalist Alex Pasternack, who working with a bunch of former Harvard classmates to launch Weeels, “a livery cab ordering and sharing app that aims to create a more efficient, affordable and friendly mode of transportation, a compromise between the private car and the public bus that maximizes people’s person miles per gallon.”
He continues,
Because it’s aimed at places and times where and when cabs can be hard to find, or in places where public transit is lacking, it works directly with city livery cab services to deliver taxis on demand, and at premium, pre-negotiated rates that are displayed on your phone before you get in the cab… It starts in NYC and on the iPhone, but we’re expanding to other platforms and, hopefully, other cities.
They produced this “silly little infomercial” (as Alex describes it), which makes up in self-mocking joie de vivre what it lacks in polish:

Brokelyn Gives Weeels Love

One of our favorite Brooklyn blogs Brokelyn covered us recently, and said this:

With subway lines sputtering, we’re always on the watch for new ways to find that cheap late-night trip home. Taxi-sharing’s a nice idea but a) it takes a village to make it truly cheap and b) the city-run version hasn’t made it across the bridge quite yet. So, where to look next? The App Store (obvs), for one of the latest necessary additions to your very existence. This one? Weeels is the name, and livery cabs the game.

And then the piece got picked up and featured on the top of the New York page on the Huffington Post! We’re starting to roll.

WEEELS on GOOD

A very nice write up for Weeels on the Good blog today:

Weeels is a new cab-sharing app for New York City. When you want a fast, inexpensive ride across town, Wheels can search for other people nearby who are going in the same direction. Once it finds someone, the app gives you and your new traveling partner a meeting place and sends a car to pick you up. If it can’t find anyone, you can cancel the trip or ride solo.
Traveling this way ends up being much cheaper than a normal taxi, both because you’re splitting the bill, and because Wheels has already negotiated lower rates with livery cabs. And by helping people share a single cab, it makes for a more efficient, cleaner, and social kind of transportation. Wheels works best in Booklyn and Lower Manhattan right now, but they’re expanding coverage in New York and plan to bring it to other cities if all goes well. And let’s hope it does—this is simply a smarter way of getting a cab.

“Simply a smarter way of getting a cab”—thanks, we think so too. If you haven’t yet, give it a try yourself

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