At one of Cayman’s biggest businesses, the conversation about congestion is going beyond talk. Dart’s internal innovation unit, known as Dart Labs, is road testing solutions.
Bike sharing, ride sharing, and even car sharing have all been trialled internally with varying degrees of success as Dart seeks to play a role in changing the way people move in Cayman.
The aim, says business innovations manager Paul Henry, is to use the Camana Bay community as a microcosm of Cayman and a testing ground for ideas that could work island-wide.
“Innovation is a mindset at Dart,” Henry said. “We believe business, scientific and technological innovations have the potential to improve quality of life for all.”
Though it has a broader remit, much of Dart Labs’ initial work has focussed on redefining the status quo of commuting in the Cayman Islands, in particular experimenting with alternatives to cars. Like the rest of Cayman, many of Dart’s employees face frustration and delays on the daily drive to and from work.
Still, tempting them out of their vehicles has proven to be harder in practice than it appears on paper.
One of the most recent Dart Labs project was the ‘Better Commute’ programme – a web-based ride-sharing platform that allowed Dart employees to log in and schedule rides with colleagues driving similar routes.
The programme was incentivised, with anyone who carpooled, cycled or walked to work being rewarded with Polyn points which they could spend in a range of Camana Bay stores.
“It was quite generous, but we found that over a three-month period it didn’t really move the dial,” said Henry.
“I think the conclusion was that incentives alone might not be enough to change behaviour. People have good intentions but the path of least resistance in Cayman is so easy: I can buy a car, travel in a car to my place of work and as an individual I have all the independence and flexibility that brings.
“To make ride sharing work on a wider scale, carpooling needs to be considered as one component of a holistic suite of options that incentivise alternative transport,” Henry added.
The next experiment
The desire for flexibility shown in the Better Commute project led to the next experiment – a partnership with Arch Automotive.
“We found that people are driven by that moment in the day when they might need to go to the doctor’s or to respond to an emergency. That was one of the reasons they would not carpool,” said Henry.
Dart’s response has been a partnership with Craig Arch and his Camana Bay-based dealership on a car-share pilot project called Zun. Users sign in and download an app that allows them to book one of six cars that have been put into the Zun pool. They pay by the minute, hour or day to use the vehicle.
“It is designed to facilitate short trips or unexpected trips. You can cycle or carpool into the office but, if you need to run an errand in George Town, you book a Zun,” Henry explained.
The concept of car sharing is really the next generation of Dart Labs’ first project – a cycle-share initiative that started in 2018.
An internal survey just prior to the project found that most Dart employees lived within a few miles of Camana Bay. Yet very few cycled to work.
The bike-share scheme – based on a concept used in many American cities but tailored specifically to suit the mix of commercial and residential tenants in Camana Bay – moved from pilot programme to an established service in 2018.
While the company decided not to pursue expanding the programme outside of Camana Bay, it recently supported Caymanian entrepreneur Daniel Powery in setting up Cycle Cayman, a bike-share programme which now has locations at Camana Bay, Regatta Park and the George Town Craft Market.
“Camana Bike continues to be an amenity for tenants and residents of Camana Bay to promote environmentally friendly habits and Cycle Cayman complements our programme by providing anyone visiting Camana Bay the ability to rent a bike for as long as they wish and then return it to any Cycle Cayman docking station on the island,” Henry said.
Nevertheless, safety continues to be a top concern for local cyclists and Henry said ongoing efforts by the Cayman Islands government to increase road safety will be critical to encouraging more commuters to cycle.
On their own, carpooling, cycling and vehicle sharing won’t make a huge difference to Cayman’s congestion problem. But Henry believes making all these options easier, safer and more accessible for those that want to use them, could start to move the needle.
“There is no silver bullet,” he said.
“It is all about an optimal combination of all these solutions – combined with a long-term approach to public transportation and development planning on a national level – coming together to create alternatives to the car.”