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Mar 18, 2006, 10:40a

I spend about 3 hours commuting roundtrip to work everyday. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention, so here's my latest: rent-a-carpool.

The premise of this business is simple: drivers rent a companion to drive with so they can drive in the carpool lane. You could imagine charging drivers $0.20 per mile or minute for the companion. Each Rent-A-Carpool "store" would be conveniently located next to each freeway on-ramp and off-ramp. It would run background, criminal, and medical record checks to make sure that the companions it rents out are safe, clean people. When you got to the store (it would be drive-through only, of course), you could select from a "menu" of companions. For example, if you're in a listening mood, you would rent "Talkative Tommy"; if you were depressed, you could rent "Happy Harry"; if you're keen on an intellectual discussion around NPR, you could rent "Intelligent Irene"; and if you'd rather not have to talk to someone, you could rent "Silent Sam".

In addition to the driver's safety, the business would have to ensure the companion's safety as well. Each companion would carry pepper spray and be trained how to use it. They would also be taught how to safely jump from a moving vehicle, in case of an emergency. One would also have to consider whether it is generally safe to let a woman be a driving companion for a male driver. For safety purposes, the business would likely not rent a companion to a car with more than one person already in it. And of course, each companion would be well-dressed and made to look as attractive as possible.

From a driver's perspective, this service would be great. Instead of spending 1.5 to 2 hours trying to get to work in the morning, I could pay $12 and drive myself to work in 1 hour, saving up to an hour in commute time. In fact, I could probably persuade my company to pay for it, as they get an additional hour of my productivity.

From a companion's perspective, this service would also be great. There are lots of people who don't have jobs or who don't want conventional 9-to-5 jobs. I'm imaging teenagers, vagabonds, the elderly, and others who can't easily get a job but who could use some extra cash signing up as driving companions. Carpool hours are generally from 5am to 9am in the morning and 3pm to 7pm in the evening. You can imagine travelling for these hours everyday in other people's cars, and then just relaxing during the middle of the day and exploring the neighborhoods that you end up in. One problem would be where to spend the night, but perhaps the business can provide beds as well. It could be a hostel of sorts.

The business would consist of franchises, where the companion itself would get 50% of the revenue, the franchise would keep 30%, and the business would get 20%.

What do you think? It's an untapped gold-mine, I tell you...

Read comments (4) - Comment

Sachin - Mar 18, 2006, 11:17p
Sounds cool. but it defeats the purposes of the carpool lane (setting aside the argument of whether caprool lanes work at all).

I seem to remember something about people picking up passengers in order to avoid bridge tolls. But I may be making that up.

David - Mar 18, 2006, 11:40p
Interesting idea. There's a beautiful Curb Your Enthusiasm ephisode where Larry David picks up a sex worker to ride in the carpool lane to a Dodgers game.

Aki - Mar 19, 2006, 10:59a
Yeh people pick up others (I think you actually need 3) to cross the Bay Bridge via Casual Commuter ( I know a few people who've done it and say it works, it's just a little weird.

David - Jun 9, 2006, 3:00p
I search google for you.... hear is the resulting site.

Brillant idea, truly

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