Hytch: It’s Like Tinder, But For Carpooling
By Justin Stokes
Those who commute to work in Nashville proper have had to fight the hydra of traffic woes for quite some time now. Though delays on the road are ultimately a sign of growth, it’s more than a slight inconvenience that obstructs motorists drives. Do Nashville professionals have to face the burden of traffic every morning? Weren’t we promised that “there would be an app for that?”
For the city of Nashville, maybe so. As we’ve previously shared, the ride-sharing app Hytch could be a quick solution to some of the congestion faced by traffic seen down the dreaded pathways of I-24, I-65, and every route into which they feed. It modernizes the carpooling concept, matching people wanting to share a ride. “Micropayments” are made through the platform between bank accounts of users. Through profiles synced with Facebook, people can “swipe left or right” to secure a possible match. After mutual swipes, chatting with the candidate lets you get to know whether or not they’d make for the ideal riding buddy. It’s like courtship for commuting.
Christian Bruckman serves as Director of Market & Business Development for Hytch. He speaks to the wasted potential of those driving by themselves. “With over a million empty seats headed to and from Davidson County every day, Hytch can be the ultimate mobility tool. Nashville will become the first city in the world to create a peer-to-peer, mass transit network,” he tells Forward Beat. Hytch focused on Middle Tennessee to with I-24 traffic jams being its prime target. It’s currently sitting at the “steady download growth” of 600 users, and building everyday “with downloads across the globe,’ and Bruckman views their Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Grant as a governmental “thumbs up” that validates the interest in the idea.
“Releasing Hytch was done through “regionalist” goggles in order to reduce traffic/congestion and improve air quality for the entire region,” Bruckman tells Forward Beat. He states that the “three key components” of the Hytch playbook are civic, corporate, and educational growth. The app has seen two official launches thus far, in Murfreesboro and Clarksville, with plans for comparable partnerships in Sumner County and Wilson County by next year. Communication with several large businesses to bring them on board as corporate sponsors, and building various relationships with colleges and universities that allow students at Vanderbilt, MTSU, and Lipscomb to be a part of the team.
The need for such a piece of technology is expressed by both the experience of the daily drive, and the data gathered from such an activity. Bruckman’s describes Nashville’s traffic status as “bleak,” citing projects from the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce’s Moving Forward research project: “today’s 48 minute average drive time commute will be 96 minutes by 2040.” Other data, such as the Nashville Area Transit Alliance research, shows that Music City is ranked 36th of the top 100 metropolitan areas by population, 76th among peer cities in mass transit usage per capita, 5th in the nation for total vehicle miles traveled per capita, 4th in the nation for freeway miles driven per capita, 11th in annual congestion costs, and last in HOV lane enforcement nationwide. He adds that regional vehicle traffic is projected to double in the next five years.
“Even creators of the nMotion vision for a $6 billion investment in mass transit, which included light rail as well as railroad alternative infrastructure, acknowledge that their plan doesn’t directly address traffic or congestion. The fact Nashville doesn’t have a mass transit system might be a competitive advantage. Every single mass transit system in the nation operates at a loss, costing billions of tax dollars to build and maintain.
“Three of the top four mass transit systems in the nation — New York, Boston and DC Metro systems — are currently seeking more than $86 billion in delayed maintenance money. Taken together with other cities that enjoy a big head-start in the competition for matching federal transit dollars, the odds are pretty long for Nashville to finally board the mass transit boat. Middle Tennessee will not start using any significant new transit infrastructure for another 15-20 years.”
Christian states that those woes can be spun into a blessing that allows for Nashville to “develop our own transit system on this new model, by networking, friends, neighbors and coworkers together so they can share the ride, as well as the cost.” And with estimated costs for using the service are less than a dollar a ride, the money saved should be immediately seen by users. Drivers have their miles tracked, along with “all of the transaction that occur.” Come tax time, Hytch’s financial report outlines all the year’s data (capped at 54 cents per mile – the federal reimbursement rate), and the classified cost-sharing transaction let’s users claim the income as “tax-free.”
For further information about Hytch, be sure to visit the app’s website. Versions of the smartphone app are available for both iPhone and Android users. Hytch also supports Goodwill certified drivers through their “Wheels to Work” program that helps those in need get a ride to work while getting a tax break of $.14/a mile.