A Message from the Executive Director: Employee Traffic Reduction Program

Audrey DeBarros HeadshotNext month, the Air Quality Control Division will be holding a two-day rulemaking hearing to discuss the Employee Traffic Reduction Program (ETRP), which will affect businesses across the northwest metro region.

ETRP is a new rule that is being proposed by two organizations, the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division (ACPD) and was included in Gov. Jared Polis’ Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap.

The rule will set goal for large employers to achieve reductions in the number of employees who drive alone, or “single-occupant vehicle” (SOV) employee commutes.

A program that offers telecommuting, public transit, ridesharing or other means not only benefits air quality, but it can also improve employee wellness, retention and company culture.

As a Transportation Management Organization (TMOs), Commuting Solutions is committed to successful, business friendly, ETRP that can reduce vehicle miles traveled and achieve Greenhouse Gas reductions.

As TMOs, we want to see the business community be successful, we want to help employers improve the quality of life for their employees through innovative commuting programs such as ETRP.

The rulemaking hearing will take place from Aug. 18 to 20.

Since early 2020, Commuting Solutions began working with other TMOs to explore the ETRP and how it could work and effect businesses, as well as creating a business-friendly role in the northwest metro region. We plan to create an employee portal to make it easy for employers to implement the new rule.

Commute with Style: Carpool and Vanpool for Employees

As your workplace returns to the office, now is the perfect time to make your commute more sustainable! Two easy options to get started is by carpooling and vanpooling!

Why You Should Carpool

Carpooling is an easy way to share a ride, which will help reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality in the region!

Carpooling helps the environment but can also benefit those in the car! Sharing rides save money, time and helps reduce stress.

How to Get Started with Carpool

For those who commute throughout the Denver metro region can use resources such as MyWaytoGo.org! My Way to Go, in partnership with the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG), can help find registered users who are either part of an existing carpool or looking for a carpool buddy.

When you register with MyWaytoGo, you are entered into a database with more than 10,000 users.

To find your best carpooling option, enter your starting location, ending location and the details for when you want to meet. The site will show you existing pools and you can communicate with those members to get your carpool going!

If you’re currently seeking to fill your car, MyWaytoGo can also help! Register your carpool and others can sign up to join!

Why You Should Vanpool

Vanpools are a great way to commute if you’re driving 15 miles or more to work one-way. Passengers share the ride, which seats from five to 15 people and pay a monthly fee that covers the cost of fuel, insurance and vehicle maintenance.

Vanpools help reduce the amount of vehicles on the road, which also improves air quality!

How to Get Started with Vanpool

For commuters who travel around the Denver metro region, MyWaytoGo.org resource is the place to start!

My Way to Go, in partnership with the DRCOG can help find registered users who are either part of an existing carpool or looking for some vanpool buddies!

My Way to Go vanpools operate through Commute with Enterprise, the largest vanpool provider in North America.

For those who live in the North Front Range region such as Berthoud, Fort Collins, Greeley, Johnstown and Loveland, check out VanGo, a vanpool program for the North Front Range Metropolitan Planning Organization.

How Carpool and Vanpool Can Save You Money

Did you know that there is a pre-tax commute benefit? The IRS Code, section 132(F) allows employees to use pre-tax salary towards their transit and vanpool commuting costs.

Commuter benefits, or transit benefits, are an employer-based provided package that helps offset the cost for employees to get to work. Just like a Health Savings Account, retirement plan, commuter benefits are a tax-savvy, morale-boosting, mobile-centric way for employees and employers to choose smart commute options and save money!

Commuter benefits include parking benefits, transit benefits, vanpool benefits and bicycle commuting benefits!

The IRS allows employers to withhold a set amount of employee’s pre-tax income for vanpool commuting costs too! This lowers the employee’s taxable income, which will add money to your pocket!

Employees may also provide a monthly fare subsidy as part of the qualified IRS Transportation Fringe Benefit, under the section 132(F) of the IRS tax code.

What to Know Before You Carpool or Vanpool

Some important things to discuss prior to beginning your commute include:

  • How long will you wait on late arrivals?
  • What happens if someone has to stay late at work?
  • How will you track trips and payment?
  • What days will you carpool? Will this be an everyday carpool/vanpool, or just a couple days a week?
  • Who is responsible for driving, and which days? How will driving duties be split up?
  • Who will be responsible for taking the van (for vanpool) in for maintenance?

Establishing rules up front will help ensure you and your carpool and vanpool buddies will have a smooth ride together!

Commuting Solutions can help you and your team figure out the best commuting options! Contact us by emailing jillian@commutingsolutions.org with any additional questions you may have about carpooling or vanpooling!

Traveling from Denver to Boulder, Ways to Get Around

Whether you’re commuting from Denver to Boulder, or going for a fun afternoon activity, there are multiple ways to get there. From riding the bus, riding your bike, or taking a carshare ride, you can travel along US 36 more sustainably!

Riding Your Bike Along the US 36 Bikeway

If you want to op-out of taking your car, another great option is a longer bike ride! Cycling to work is one of the most powerful ways to positively impact our region’s traffic congestion and air quality.

It’s never been easier with resources such as the US 36 Bikeway and the Bike Northwest Interactive Map!

Before you hit the road, follow these tips:

  • Map your route – map your route then trace those steps as a pedestrian or in a car.
  • Gear up – Set yourself up for success and enjoy your ride with the proper gear! Head to your local bicycle shop where employees can help you pick the perfect gear.
  • Safety – Learn the proper hand signals and how your helmet should fit before hitting the road.
  • Find a safe place for your bike – Ensure there is a bike rack you can use once you reach the office or be able to store it inside the building.

Combining Bicycling and Public Transit Along US 36

Want to use both your bicycle and public transportation? Bike-n-Ride Shelters at RTD stations can help you achieve your goal!

Bike-n-Ride Shelters provide long-term, secure and weather-protected bicycle storage for commuters making connections to and from local or regional transit routes. The Bike-n-Ride program makes it easy to combine bus trips and bike rides by using the shelter to complete the first or final mile of your commute.

To use a shelter, visit Commuting Solutions’ Bike-n-Ride webpage to apply today!

Along the US 36 corridor, there are multiple Bike-n-Ride Shelters:

  • Broomfield (Westbound US 36 & Broomfield) OPENS 2021
  • Westminster (Eastbound US 36 & Sheridan) OPENS 2021
  • Superior (US 36 & Eastbound McCaslin)
  • Louisville (US 36 & Westbound McCaslin)
  • Hover Street & Highway 119/Diagonal in Longmont
  • 30th Street & Diagonal Hwy, North Boulder
  • 8th & Coffman, downtown Longmont
  • US 36 & Table Mesa Station (near gate C)
  • Downtown Boulder Station – Walnut and 14th Street

Take the Flatiron Flyer

If you prefer to sit back and enjoy the scenery, or get some work done, the Regional Transportation District (RTD) has you covered!

RTD’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service, the Flatiron Flyer is the first BRT to connect Denver with the northwest metro region’s businesses, federal institutions and the University of Colorado-Boulder.

Riders have access to downtown Boulder, downtown Denver, the Anschutz Medical Campus, Denver International Airport and many more connections!

The Flatiron Flyer offers commuters a reliable ride every 15 minutes during peak hours and every 15 minutes off-peak, Monday through Friday. On the weekends, the Flatiron Flyer offers commuters a reliable ride every 15 minutes during peak hours on Saturday and every 30 minutes on Sunday.

The 2021 Flatiron Flyer fares are:

  • $3 for a local three-hour pass
  • $5.25 for a regional three-hour pass
  • All trip fares can be calculated online with RTD

Flatiron Flyer Routes include:

  • Route FF1 – travels between Union Station and Downtown Boulder station.
  • Route FF3 – Travels from Broomfield to Union Station with stops at US 36 & Church Ranch Station and US 36 & Sheridan Station.
  • Route FF5 – Downtown Boulder Station to Anschutz

Currently, Routes FF2, FF4, FF6 and FF7 are suspended.

Using RTD’s Trip Planner also allows riders to plan their trips and provides real-time updates on the services.

Sharing Your Route

Whether you’re driving your car, being picked up by your co-worker, sitting in a van or using an app to order your ride, there are multiple options to get from home to work.

Carpool allows you to reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality in the northwest metro region! Carpooling not only benefits the environment but benefits you! Sharing a ride saves you time, money and reduces stress.

Resources such as MyWaytoGo.org can help you find registered users who are part of an existing pool or looking for a carpool buddy. More than 10,000 people are currently registered!

Vanpools are the perfect commute option for commuters who travel more than 15 miles to work one-way. Passengers share the ride in a van, which can seat up to 15 people, and pay a monthly fee that covers the cost of fuel, insurance and vehicle maintenance.

Vanpools help reduce the number of vehicles on the road, and allows the riders to ride the US 36 Express Lanes for free!

Resources such as MyWayToGo.org can help you find registered users who are part of a pool or looking for a buddy! My Way to Go Vanpools operate through Commute with Enterprise.

If you’re ordering your ride through a mobile app with Uber or Lyft both allow riders to reduce costs and carbon emissions by sharing a ride with someone going the same direction.

Uber POOL provides riders a carpooling service which helps reduce the cost of travel as well as carbon emissions by sharing a ride.

If you want to use a car, but don’t own one, an option is to use a car-share service!

Colorado Carshare is a local 501(c)(3) car-sharing organization which provides alternatives to individual car ownership.

Incentives to Commuting

Did you know there are incentives to commuting with others? Check out Commuting Solutions’ blog post about commuter benefits, transit benefits!

Resources:

RTD’s fare calculator
RTD’s Flatiron Flyer
FF1 Schedule
FF3 Schedule
FF5 Schedule
US 36 Bikeway
Bike-n-Ride Shelters
Boulder County Bike Map
Denver Bike Map
MyWaytoGo.org
Commute with Enterprise
Innovations in Transportation

Employee Trip Reduction Program Rulemaking Process

The Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) will discuss the Employee Trip Reduction Program (ETRP) on Thursday and determine whether there will be a rulemaking hearing this summer.

The ETRP is a new rule that is being proposed by two organizations, the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division (APCD) and Regional Air Quality Council (RAQC), and was included in Gov. Jared Polis’ Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap.

This rule would set goals for large employers to achieve reductions in the number of employees who drive alone, or “single-occupant vehicle” (SOV) employee commutes. A program that offers telecommuting, public transit, ridesharing or other means not only benefits air quality, it can also improve employee wellness, retention and company culture. The Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) will take the rule under consideration in May 2021, requesting a rulemaking hearing be set for August 2021.

Ways to Celebrate Earth Day 2021

Earth Day 2021 ChallengeWe’re halfway through the month of April, which means it’s almost Earth Day! At Commuting Solutions, we pride ourselves on providing progressive, flexible and sustainable transportation solutions that also reduce emissions and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

To celebrate Earth Day, Commuting Solutions is hosting a virtual challenge!

During the week of April 19-23, leave your car at home and take a bike ride, a walk, telework, carpool or use public transportation!

Anytime you leave the car at home, send us your selfies with the hashtag, #CSEarthDay2021. During the week, Commuting Solutions staff will share their photos to encourage everyone during the challenge!

We can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Want more ways to celebrate?

Some local jurisdictions are celebrating Earth Day as well!

On April 22 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. the City of Louisville is showing Kiss the Ground, an inspiring and groundbreaking film that reveals a viable solution to our climate crisis: the soil.

Registration is required and can be done online.

On April 22, the City of Westminster is participating in the Great Global Cleanup. The clean-up can take place between April 22 and April 30. The city will provide supplies and disposal of full trash bags.

The City and County of Broomfield is hosting a week long Community Earth Day Scavenger Hunt! The event will kick off on Saturday, April 17, with the City of Broomfield’s Earth Day celebration at the public library.

Registration is required by April 17 and can be done online.

To register, contact Kristen May at kmay@cityofwestminster.us or call 303.658.2191.

With Commuting Solutions, you can become a part of the Workplace Commute Ambassadors! The program helps employees in the northwest metro region encourage their co-workers to choose sustainable transportation options, such as carpooling, riding transit, bicycling, vanpooling, teleworking and walking.

Learn more about the program by emailing Jillian at jillian@commutingsolutions.org.

Employee Trip Reduction Program Meeting Scheduled

There is an upcoming transportation rulemaking process, initiated by the Colorado air Pollution Control Division (APCD) which could impact transportation dynamics for employees.

This rule is specific to employers’ efforts to reduce emissions from employee transportation to and from work that contributes to harmful air pollution.

The APCD intends to propose an Employee Traffic Reduction Program (ETRP) rule for consideration by the Air Quality Control Commission (ACQQ) in May, and request that a rulemaking hearing by set by August.

This rule would set goals for large employers to achieve sustained reductions in the number of people who drive alone, or “single-occupant vehicle” (SOV) employee commutes. A program that offers teleworking, public transit, ridesharing or other means not only benefits the air quality, but it can also improve employee wellness, retention and company culture.

Over the last several months, the Regional Air Quality Council (RAQC), local transportation management organizations (TMOs), metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) and local government entities have been reviewing various models to assist employers in developing Employer Trip/Employee Traffic Reduction Programs (ETRP). Commuting Solutions has been working with partners for the last several months during this rulemaking process to ensure businesses are receiving support while also prioritizing sustainable options.

This plan is also a part of Gov. Jared Polis’ Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap, which was approved earlier this year.

Input from the employer is highly desired and encouraged! To participate, a listening session for the general public, in both English and Spanish, is scheduled for March 18 from 6-8 p.m.

Register online for the events, or provide comments.

The RAQC will also continue the stakeholder process and invites interested employers to attend meetings scheduled for:

April 2 from 9:30 a.m. – noon

April 7 from 9:30 a.m. – noon

Submit comments online.

Commuter Benefits, Transit Benefits FAQ

People in Car Driving to WorkWhat is a pre-tax commute benefit?

The IRS Code, section 132(f), allows employees to use pre-tax salary towards their transit and vanpool commuting costs.

Commuter benefits, or transit benefits, are an employer-provided package that helps offset the cost for employees to get to work. Like a Health Savings Account, retirement plan and other benefits, commuter benefits are a tax-savvy, morale-boosting, mobility-centric way for employees and employers alike to choose smarter commute options and save money.

Commuter benefits include parking benefits, transit benefits, vanpool benefits and bicycle commuting benefits.

How do commuter benefits work?

When an employee enrolls in a pre-tax commuter benefits program, they will provide the amount of their monthly commuting cost for transit and/or commuting-related parking up the monthly limits.

The tax-free commuting dollars are provided to the employee in a product, such as a voucher, smart card, debit card, etc., to cover all commuting options. Currently, employees can use up to $270 a month for transit, and the same amount for commuter-related parking.

Can commuter benefits also benefit the employer?

Yes, commuter benefits also benefit the employer! By offering employees a pre-tax commuter benefits program, the cost of commuting deducted for employees reduces the amount of payroll being taxed.

What qualifies as transportation fringe benefits?

  • Commuter transportation in a commuter highway vehicle
  • Transit passes
  • Qualified parking
  • Qualified bicycle commuting expenses.

Are commuter benefits a tax write-off?

No, commuter benefits are not a tax write-off.

Is the pre-tax transit and vanpool benefit the same as a transit or vanpool subsidy?

No. The pre-tax transit and vanpool benefit uses the employee’s own salary before taxes to pay toward the commute funding. A transit or vanpool subsidy is when the employer provides employees with a transit or vanpool benefit above and beyond the employee’s salary.

Are there benefits for cycling?

Earlier this year, a revamped Bicycle Commuter Act was introduced in the US House of Representatives. It would ensure bike commuters get pre-tax commuter benefits similar to those who drive and park or take public transportation to work.

In 2017, Congress eliminated a tax credit for bike commuters which allowed employers to reimburse workers as much as $20 per month, pre-tax, for bike commuting expenses.

If the bill passes, it will make the benefit a pre-tax benefit, allow employees to receive a bicycle benefit of up to 30% of the parking benefit, allow the bicycle benefit to be used in concert with the transit and parking benefits and add bike-shares as eligible for the benefit, clarifying that e-bikes are eligible.

What is vanpooling?

Vanpool is a perfect way to get to and from work for those who travel more than 15 miles to work one-way. Passengers share a ride in a van that seats five to 15 people and pay a monthly fee that covers the cost of fuel, insurance and vehicle maintenance.

Vanpooling helps reduce the number of vehicles on the road!

Is there a pre-tax benefit for vanpooling?

Yes! The IRS allows employers to withhold a set amount of employee’s pre-tax income for vanpool commuting costs. This lower’s the employee’s taxable income, which puts more money into their pocket.

Employees may also provide a monthly fare subsidy as part of the qualified IRS Transportation Fringe Benefit, under section 132(F) of the IRS tax code.

What are the tax benefits for Boulder County residents?

  • The University of Colorado-Boulder offers a $25 monthly incentive for employees who vanpool.
  • The City of Boulder offers a $20 monthly incentive for Boulder residents or employees who vanpool.
  • Boulder County offers a $70 monthly incentive for Boulder County employees who chose to vanpool as well as offering priority parking.
  • For vanpoolers within the North Front Range, and use VanGo, can receive up to $260 for commuting costs. The cost will be taken out of the paycheck prior to taxes.

What are the tax benefits for Broomfield County residents?

The City and County of Broomfield offers voluntary pre-tax savings plans to full-time and eligible part-time employees for health, dependent care and transportation expenses.

  • Broomfield County offers up to $225 per month, with no annual max, for vanpool or bus passes for its maximum annual contribution. Employee contribution is up to $225 per month.
  • For vanpoolers within the North Front Range, and use VanGo, can receive up to $260 for commuting costs. The cost will be taken out of the paycheck prior to taxes.

 

Commuting Solutions can help your business get started with a vanpool! For more information, contact us at info@commutingsolutions.org.

Resources:

Internal Revenue Service Taxable Fringe Benefit Guide

132(F) of the IRS tax code

24-Hour Flex

Vanpool? More Like VanCool!

Are you getting tired of driving alone during your long commute? It’s time to get your out of your car and into a vanpool! Commuting Solutions, in partnership with Way to Go, Commute with Enterprise and GO Boulder/City of Boulder is excited to announce their newest program: VanCool! Register for a vanpool and receive $20 a month for the rest of the year towards the cost of your vanpool!*

The VanCool program was inspired by our mission to reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality throughout the Denver Metro region.

Vanpools are the perfect solution for commuters who travel more than 15-miles one-way to work. Passengers share the ride in a vehicle – which contrary to the name, isn’t always a van – that seats 5-15 people. Participants pay a monthly fee that covers the cost of fuel, insurance and vehicle maintenance.

The benefits of vanpooling are never ending. When traveling along US 36, vanpools have access to the US 36 Express Lanes for free as a High Occupancy Vehicle.** Participants in vanpools also don’t have to worry about making time to bring their vans in for maintenance: the maintenance crew will come to your workplace so you don’t have to lift a finger.

Still not sold on vanpools or have some more questions? Here are some answers to the most commonly asked questions about vanpools.

FAQ

How much will a vanpool cost?

Every vanpool is different. The cost is determined using a formula that takes into consideration the distance of your commute, the number of participants, how many days a week your traveling, the cost of gas and more. The cost of the vanpool will cover:

  • 30-day agreements
  • Full administrative support by a local staff
  • All maintenance and repairs covered
  • 24-hour Emergency Roadside Assistance, including free loaner van as needed
  • Guaranteed Ride Home – In an emergency you can take a free cab ride up to 100 miles one was
  • $1 million insurance policy with no deductible.
  • A one-time $60.00 CO State Road Fee charged on first invoice

How do I find people to vanpool with?

We will help you! Vanpools can be created a handful of different ways. Vanpools are primarily created through employer vanpool matching events. We will create a dot map of employee addresses and determine potential vanpools based on clusters. We can also use the My Way to Go network to match you with existing vanpools.

When and where will I meet up with my vanpool?

That’s up for you and your pool to decide! As a vanpool, you’ll need to establish ground rules ahead of time, such as a meeting place, departure times and how long the van will wait for a late passenger. Park-n-Rides are popular meet-up locations as well as a great place to store the van.

Do I have to drive?

Not if you don’t want to! Each vanpool must have at least two drivers listed and covered by insurance. It’s up to the vanpool to decide who the drivers will be.

What happens if I need to get home in the middle of the day or unexpectedly change my schedule?

If anything unexpected comes up, the Guaranteed Ride Home program is available to all our vanpool participants. All you’ll need to do is call their number and schedule a ride.

Can I bring a bike?

Sure, just tell your vanpool coordinators ahead of time and your vehicle can be retrofitted with a bike rack!

So sign up, help decrease traffic congestion and save a little extra money while you’re at it. Now that’s a cool idea.

Ready to get registered? Click here, fill out the form and we’ll be in touch!

*This offer is valid to those who qualify as a new vanpool in the Commuting Solutions region. New vanpool must be registered by 5:00pm on September 30, 2019. Management reserves all rights. New participants who commute into/out of Boulder, Colorado will receive an additional $20 per person, per month through December 31, 2019.

**Driver must have switchable HOV pass in vehicle.

 

Top 8 Reasons We Love Transit in the Northwest Metro Region (And You Should Too!)

There are so many reasons to love where we live. The unparalleled access to nature, the booming economy, the amazing local culture… the list goes on. One of the lesser mentioned reasons is that we have an amazing and varied transit system. While we are primarily served by the Regional Transportation District and their services, we benefit from local services in Boulder, the FLEX service by TransFort and so much more. Take a look at why we love transit in our region!

The Flatiron Flyer:

There is no easier, quicker or relaxing way to go from Boulder to Denver or vice versa than the Flatiron Flyer. Between the schedule-free service, the comfortable seats and the US 36 Express Lanes, there is no longer any reason to deal with driving alone on US 36. Another perk of the Flatiron Flyer? With ample parking available at the stations along the corridor, you no longer have to worry about finding a parking spot at your final destination, which for those of us who hate parking in Denver is the most invaluable perk of all.

SportsRide: BuffRide, BroncosRide & More:

When planning to attend any major sporting event, professional or college, there is the inevitable discussion surrounding who’s going to drive and where to park that won’t cost an arm and a leg. With RTD’s variety of game day services, the only question that needs to be asked is what time are we catching the bus. It’s a great way to enjoy the region’s diverse sporting activities without worrying about how you’re going to get there.

The On-Demand FlexRide Service:

One of the best services that RTD has to offer in the northwest metro region is the FlexRide service. It’s RTD’s reimagining of the former Call-n-Ride service. You can now order a ride up to 10 minutes in advance or schedule a regularly occurring trip. All of the vehicles are fully accessible, and the service continues to provide seamless connections between services and final destinations.

 

RTD & Innovation:

We are fortunate to be served by RTD, an organization that wants to bring the best and newest innovations to its users. That’s why this year alone RTD has announced partnerships with Lyft and Uber, that will allow users of the app to see transit options in the Lyft and Uber This will make it easier to plan and pay for multimodal trips throughout the region. RTD has also launched its first Autonomous Vehicle (AV) pilot program to work on integrating the new technology into their service offerings.

SkyRide to DEN:

Next time you have a trip planned, let RTD take care of getting you to the airport. The AB, AA, AT and A-Line services connect travelers from all over the Denver metro region to DIA with ease. For the northwest metro region, there is no faster way to get to the airport than by hopping on the AB service and letting RTD do the driving. You get to avoid traffic and paying for parking. Plus, you are dropped off right at the terminal. It couldn’t be easier!

The B-Line:

The B-Line is the first commuter rail service to connect Union Station in Denver and Westminster Station, constructed as part of the RTD FasTracks project. Westminster Station is located at 69th Avenue and Grove Street with the station and transit plaza designed to be the central hub within the surrounding 135-acre transit-oriented development area. The service serves nearly 1800 riders a day and is an easy way to commute into Denver.

FLEX Your Commute:

Another great service available to commuters in the northwest metro region is the FLEX route which connects Fort Collins to Boulder. The bus comes equipped with WiFi, charging ports and only cost $1.25 one-way! The route stops in Loveland, Longmont and Berthoud. For your next trip between the two cities, give the FLEX a go!

Bustang on I-25:

The Bustang is CDOT’s Interregional Express (IX) bus service, connecting commuters along the I-25 corridor from Fort Collins all the way to Denver on its North Line. Each Bustang coach is equipped with a restroom, bike racks, free WiFi, power outlets and USB ports.

 

Remember What Fast Feels Like With Casual Carpool

For the better part of the last year, the Commuting Solutions team has been building from the ground up Colorado’s first casual carpool program that will operate on the US 36 corridor. As part of preparing for this program, our team has extensively researched existing examples nationwide, particularly in Washington D.C. and San Francisco. With the launch of our Casual Carpool on US 36 program, we want to share all that we’ve learned with you so you can join us in our excitement to pilot Colorado’s first casual carpooling program for the US 36 Express Lanes.

What is Casual Carpool?

Casual carpool is a mutually beneficial concept for drivers and riders alike. Drivers pick up riders so that they can travel in the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes at a reduced cost or no charge at all. Riders receive an easy and affordable ride to work.

How Did Casual Carpool Get Started?

Casual carpool, also known as sluglines, is a concept that began in the 1970s in Washington D.C.  during the Oil Embargo. The embargo created shortage of fuel which led to massively inflated gas prices. Driving alone was no longer a feasible or affordable option. Commuters needed a way to form quick and easy carpools give them free access to the HOV lanes. This need led to the creation of casual carpools, also known as sluglines. It was a grassroots movement that addressed the high costs of gas and toll charges.

Sluglines are a free mode of transportation created by people searching for a ride and drivers in need of additional passengers to utilize the HOV lanes. It was a simple enough concept. Those in a need of a ride would line up at a meeting point and drivers searching for passengers would pull up and signal how many riders they needed to drive in the HOV lanes and where they were going. Even with the advent of new technology and the end of the oil crisis, slug lines are still a popular commute option. The casual carpool trend spread across the county and can be found in several major metropolitan areas. Two of the largest programs can be found in Washington D.C. and San Francisco, with over 10,000 commuters a day using casual carpools in each city.

Why Casual Carpool on US 36?

US 36 connects Boulder to Denver via I-25 and is one of the busiest commuter corridors in the Denver metro area. Following the 2017 completion of the US 36 Express Lanes, 15 percent of the travelers have been carpoolers. As our region continues to grow, it’s important that we continue to increase the HOV usage of these lanes for many reasons. The introduction of casual carpooling to the corridor presents an innovative opportunity to alleviate current congestion, maximize usage of the express lanes and improve the air quality of the region.

 

Casual Carpool on US 36 builds on the casual carpool models of Washington D.C. and San Francisco by using technology to connect riders and drivers along the corridor. The program will utilize the technology platform of Waze Carpool, Waze’s on-demand carpool app that launched nationwide in October 2018. The app allows users to connect ahead of time and meet at pre-determined locations to start their carpool.

Is it Safe?

While the idea of carpooling with a stranger may give you pause at first, Casual Carpool on US 36 is designed to be a safe program for both the riders and drivers. By allowing carpools to match through the app ahead of time, the driver and riders have an opportunity to chat through the messaging feature to get to know each other before hopping in the car with each other.  If during these conversations, something doesn’t feel right, all users have the right to politely decline the ride.

Riders and drivers have the right to opt out of the carpool at any point. If you show up on the day of your carpool and you get a gut feeling that makes you uneasy, as a rider you can not get in the car and as a driver, you have the right to not pick up your passenger.

The Waze Carpool app also includes the MyCompany program, which allows your company to create a group on the app where employees can match exclusively with their coworkers.

By having pre-determined pickup locations, riders don’t have to share their personal addresses.

Since Casual Carpool on US 36 operates as a mutually beneficial program, we encourage all involved to be respectful towards each other and to create a safe environment ensuring the integrity of the system.

What are the Rules?

Since casual carpool isn’t a formal system with any kind of governing body, there are no official rules. However, over the years, participants across the city have created an unofficial unspoken agreement about the code of conduct for casual carpools.

  1. Follow the Golden Rule: Treat others (and their car, belongings, etc.) how you would want to be treated.
  2. Remember: just because it’s casual, doesn’t mean there aren’t definite boundaries when it comes to riding in someone else’s car
    1. Don’t eat in the car without checking in with the driver first.
    2. Follow up to a. – don’t drink anything but water in the car. Save your morning joe for the office.
    3. Don’t apply your makeup in the car.
    4. Save all calls for once you’re out of the car.
    5. Make sure you don’t smell bad or bring any offensive odors into the car.
  3. Drivers, there are rules for you too.
    1. Clean up your car before picking up riders.
    2. Don’t play your music too loud.
    3. An amendment to rule b: keep your music/radio selection appropriate and non-offensive.
    4. Drive safely. This isn’t the Fast and the Furious. Now is not the time to show off how well your car handles fast turns.
  4. Safety. Comes. First. Whether you’re a rider or a driver, do you best to make the ride to work safe for everybody.
  5. We’re not all morning people so keep the conversation to a minimum. You can always use your Casual Carpool on US 36 as a way to make friends but read the mood of carpool first.
  6. There may be bumps in the road so if a disagreement occurs during your Casual Carpool on US 36 just stay calm and finish the ride.

Give it a go!

Now that you know what it’s history and why you should use it, the only thing left to do is give it a go! Download the Waze Carpool app on your smart phone and start arranging your first ride. Casual Carpool on US 36 is a pilot program which will continue through December 2019 and is made possible through a federal grant administered by the Denver Regional Council of Governments. We appreciate the support of RTD, DRCOG and our local government partners along US 36 to join us in testing this innovative project.

 

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