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King County Metro wants to make it easier to use carpooling apps

By partnering with private apps, Metro hopes to encourage more people to carpool

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Carpooling has existed for a long time—and has been something encouraged by local governments and institutions for almost as long, from HOV lanes to carpool parking. But carpooling has changed, or at least become a little more socially accessible, with technology. No need to cultivate a collection of work friends; an app can do that for you.

King County Metro is experimenting with encouraging carpooling in this new app-centric space. In a pilot program that started this week and will run through the upcoming three-week State Route 99 closure, the county is working with private ride-sharing (not ride-hailing!) apps Scoop and Waze Carpool to lessen costs for riders and increase the benefit to drivers, at least temporarily. Waze Carpool launched throughout Washington State earlier this year; Scoop launched in March 2017 for people commuting to South Lake Union. (Scoop has since expanded its service area, but it’s still not comprehensive.)

On Waze, rides are a flat $2 for all trips starting and ending in King County and referral bonuses for both rider and drivers. Scoop also has discounted rides and increased payouts, although those are variable and weren’t specified by the county.

Both apps allow for sorting out just co-workers and require photos for all users. Scoop also checks motor vehicle histories for drivers and allows filtering to just Facebook friends. Waze allows for the creation of private groups and filtering for people of the same gender.

As far as getting back goes: If Scoop gets you there but doesn’t find you a ride home by the cutoff time, it’ll cover up to $50 per month of alternate transportation. Otherwise—for example, with Waze—stranded commuters signed up for Metro’s Just One Trip program will receive a “Guaranteed Ride Home” code good for up to $100 of taxi trip home. That’s redeemable, for example, if someone carpools to work but then gets sick and has to leave early.

Carpool apps still cost more and lack the capacity of the ultimate rideshare: the bus. But it’s certainly a solution for someone who wants the convenience of a car, but doesn’t want the impact of a single-occupancy vehicle—or maybe lives a little too far off a convenient transit route.

This isn’t the first time King County has looked toward apps as a way to mitigate congestion and discourage driving alone. Earlier this year, it launched a responsive shuttle for Eastside commuters headed to the Eastgate Park and Ride.