Mon, 27 Jan 2020

French Cosy Up in Carpools to Beat Transport Strike

Voice of America
06 Dec 2019, 04:05 GMT+10

PARIS - Quentin Louedec, a 28-year-old engineer, usually struggles to find anyone wanting to share a ride on his daily three km (two mile) commute to the Val-de-Seine industrial zone in northern Paris. But not on Thursday.

Demand on carpooling apps surged ahead of a public sector strike across France that paralyzed transport and forced commuters to find other ways to travel, or work from home.

"This time, it was super quick," Louedec said - as his company car plodded through the heavy rush-hour traffic for 30 minutes.

Along for the ride was 23-year-old Justin Guerinot, three months into a new job and with no laptop to let him work from home.

Authorities in the Ile-de-France region around Paris promoted carpooling apps to keep commuters moving, promising each driver 4 euros ($4.40) per shared ride.

"I thought it would be better than using my own car," Guerinot said.

The carpooling platform BlaBlaCar said registrations for its commuter app, BlaBlaLines, were 25 times the normal level in the greater Paris region on Wednesday. The number of shared rides planned for Thursday was double the typical level.

BlaBlaCar launched in France 12 years ago, initially aimed at car-sharing on longer trips, and now has 85 million registered users worldwide.

Chief executive Nicolas Brusson said the average number of people per car on a normal day was only 1.09.

"With the disruptions, we will see lots of people discovering short-distance carpooling for the first time," he said.

Neither Louedec nor Guerinot had much sympathy for the public sector workers' opposition to a reform that unions say will punish the younger generation. Many public sector workers such as rail staff and mariners enjoy special benefits.

"I understand why they want to protect their rights, but I think that we should work towards more equality in pension plans," Louedec said.

Guerinot said simply: "I don't much like social movements that make the lives of others difficult."

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