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Drivers offered cash for carpools

By Robert Thomson

Commuter Connections, a regional network that encourages alternatives to driving alone, is launching an incentive program to stimulate carpooling in the D.C. area.

The program, which was first introduced in 2009 as a demonstration project that enrolled 100 commuters, is called Pool Rewards, and it works like this: Commuters must become part of a new carpool. They visit a page on the Commuter Connections Web site and record some basic information about their commutes and take a survey about their travel experiences. Then they can earn $2 for each day they carpool to work over a 90-day period, up to a maximum of $130.

"It's good for commuters, good for the air and good for reducing traffic congestion," Nicholas Ramfos, the director of Commuter Connections, said in an announcement describing the program.

A State of the Commute survey done every three years for Commuter Connections has shown that the D.C. region made great progress in this decade in encouraging telecommuting. There's also been a decade-long decline in the popularity of solo driving. But getting people to ride together remains difficult.

Ramfos told me that in some ways, the region's resilient economy hinders the single driver's search for alternatives. "It's a transient area," he said in an interview. People move and change jobs a lot, making it difficult to establish and maintain carpools.

Besides the direct cash payments, there are some pretty strong savings involved in carpooling: Access to HOV lanes, savings on fuel costs, reduced wear and tear on the car, reduced wear and tear on the commuter. There's also a free Guaranteed Ride Home program to get people home if an emergency or, say, unscheduled overtime prevents a commuter from rejoining the homeward bound carpool. See more about the D.C. region's ride-sharing programs.

By Robert Thomson  | November 9, 2010; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  Commuting, Driving  | Tags:  Dr. Gridlock  
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