CarpoolNow is a new free app that matches drivers and riders through their smartphones in the way that ride-hailing companies find you a driver. Commuter Connections, a TPB program focused on promoting travel modes other than driving alone, developed the app as another way for commuters to connect with others going in the same direction to carpool.
All you have to do? Download the free app, sign up with Commuter Connections, then offer to drive or look for a ride by choosing the appropriate icon. Using your phone’s GPS location, driver and rider are matched and provided a meeting place, a first name, and a phone number to communicate. Plus, with a Commuter Connections account, users also have access to Commuter Connections’ network of services, such as Guaranteed Ride Home, which provides commuters with a reliable ride home in case of unexpected emergencies.
The on-demand nature of the app can also take the carpool beyond basic commuting by using it to get to and from sporting events such as the upcoming Nationals post-season baseball games, concerts, events on the National Mall, or to get around transit disruptions such as those caused by Metro’s ongoing SafeTrack maintenance program.
Commuters in the Washington region are no strangers to giving each other rides. According to new data from the 2016 State of the Commute survey, about 5 percent of respondents said they commuted by carpool. Slug lines in Virginia are a well-established way commuters have found each other to form carpools. But now, with CarpoolNow, commuters in areas without these traditional slug lines will have an easier time finding rides or taking on passengers.
Soon there will be even more incentive for drivers to share rides. New toll lanes will be coming to I-66 in Virginia and drivers there will want to fill the seats in their cars to save money on tolls by carpooling. Generally, these high-occupancy toll lanes give a financial incentive for drivers to carpool. In fact, new data from the State of the Commute survey this year shows that more carpoolers use express lanes than commuters who drive alone.
Beyond just cost savings, convenience and reliability might also push people to try carpooling for the first time. Metrorail’s ongoing maintenance program, SafeTrack, has shown regular riders and people who drive that it is important to find a variety of alternatives. To avoid serious traffic back-ups in areas where Metro is shut down or single tracking, transit users have figured out other alternatives. Carpooling would help riders.
In addition to the daily commute, CarpoolNow gives concert-goers and sports fans a better way to get home from late night events that end after Metro has closed. The Nationals are partnering with Commuter Connections and plan to promote the app as a way baseball fans can get home after late games or concerts.
Commuter Connections has been helping people carpool for over 40 years. The ride matching service evolved from maps and key-punch cards in the 1970s, to a dial-up network in the 1980s, and then GIS software in the 1990s. This app continues a tradition of using the latest technology to help the region’s residents take advantage of options other than driving alone. CarpoolNow’s dynamic features add another option to help people in the Washington region get around.