Seattle Launches First Real-Time Rideshare Program

Last week a ridesharing project launched in the Seattle, Washington area that brings carpooling into "real time."

The pilot program allows 250 drivers with GPS-enabled smartphones to
offer the empty seats in their vehicles to 750 riders along the SR 520
highway, in real time, as they travel. Avego pairs passengers and
drivers through a system using iPhones and other mobile
devices.

Transportation firm Avego created the pilot, called go520. The company
says it is the first large-scale pilot in the United States to study how
real-time ridesharing could help manage congestion and save commuters
money.

Avego automatically distributes the cost of the commute among
the riders, providing a key financial incentive to commuters frustrated
by high gasoline prices.

“We’re eager to see if this approach to carpooling works for commuters and traffic,” said Brian Lagerberg, acting director of the Public Transportation Division of the Washington State Department of Transportation. “If people like it, real-time ridesharing will fill empty seats in cars and make transportation more affordable and efficient.”

The state-funded project complements ongoing state and local efforts to help manage congestion and reduce carbon emissions on SR 520, including Smarter Highways, commute trip reduction, vanpooling, incident response, ramp meters, tolling, bus service, traditional online ridesharing and more. Tolling begins on the SR 520 floating bridge this spring, which is also likely to increase interest in ridesharing, officials said.

To encourage participation, Avego will reward go520 drivers with a $30 gas card monthly, plus travel reimbursements, for participating in the program 20 or more times each month. Drivers will also receive an Avego iPhone accessory pack (retail value $35). Riders will receive up to $30 per month in Avego credit to use towards real-time ridesharing journeys. In addition to these financial benefits, drivers and riders will be able to reduce commuting time by making use of the high occupancy vehicle (HOV) ramps and lanes.

In 2009, the Washington State Legislature directed WSDOT to conduct a carpool pilot project on the SR 520 corridor in King County. The pilot project includes a detailed evaluation of real-time ridesharing to help policy makers determine how it compares to other demand management programs and whether it should be used elsewhere in Washington. WSDOT considered a variety of proposals and selected Avego to receive a $400,000 grant.

Avego says its breakthrough real-time ridesharing system makes it easy to share rides by eliminating the hassles associated with traditional carpooling. Traditional carpools must be pre-arranged, and riders and drivers must stick to a rigid schedule for the carpool to work. Any deviation from the routine, due to sickness or having to work late, can throw a traditional carpool into chaos.

Avego Shared Transport is the only ridesharing application that matches drivers and riders in real time as they travel.

Once a match is made, Avego manages the journey from pick-up to drop-off, providing real-time status updates, automated security features, and electronic micro-payments that allow riders and drivers to share the cost of a journey.

To start an Avego ride-sharing community in your city, visit the link below to download the free Avego Driver iPhone application or to sign up as a rider. A free application for Windows Phone 7 smartphones will be available to the public in April 2011.

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