By EMILY R. WEST
For those tired of sitting in commuter traffic, there’s a new app to make it a less lonely drive and potentially quicker.
Brentwood’s Mark Cleveland has co-founded a new app called Hytch. Similar to Tinder, which sets up those looking for a date, Hytch helps accomplish the same goal. Only this time, it’s friends, neighbors or those with the same commute pattern looking for a ride to the same place.
Cleveland worked on Hytch – testing it with both a third party source and his family and friends to work out the glitches – for a year and a half before launching the app. While he said there are still some improvements to make, he feels confident about the product really finding itself in the market.
“The long-distance commuter is the vehicle everyone is angry at,” he said. “If you live downtown, you’re mad at everyone who comes downtown. There is a titanic clash of too many vehicles. So how is this going to help? If you can take one vehicle off the road, that’s all you can do. You can not drive.”
The Tennessee Department of Transportation also bought into the app in the amount of $100,000 through a Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) grant. The Federal CMAQ program provides TDOT with funds reserved for projects that reduce air pollution from transportation sources and reduce traffic congestion.
TDOT accepts proposals for funding a wide range of eligible CMAQ projects. These include bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, ridesharing and other programs designed to reduce vehicle trips.
“This CMAQ grant funding will help the company build a user community in the six counties impacted by air quality issues, which are Davidson, Montgomery, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson and Wilson counties,” Cleveland said. “The bold support of TDOT is critical to push technology solutions that change driving habits.
“Congestion steals time from everyone. Hytch’s technology brings us together to claim it back, one trip at a time. The vision is to network Nashville to become the first city in America where the entire driving community is connected to ride or drive and share the cost of gas.”
The flexibility of the product, Cleveland said, comes from the user’s ability to utilize the app at their convenience. Those who use Hytch don’t have to use it every day – whether it’s once a month or once a week, he said those in the Nashville commuter area can make a difference by just simply trying it out.
“If we can get 10 percent of Nashville’s drivers to take a passenger or a rider it would be 35,000 people a day carpooling,” he said. “Nashville is a clogged roadway. It’s a parking lot at times.
“So Nashville started as Music City and has become the ‘it’ city. I think we should make every effort to become transit. We should take the million empty seats and turn them into a transit assets.”