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.
- Follow the Golden Rule: Treat others (and their car, belongings, etc.) how you would want to be treated.
- Remember: just because it’s casual, doesn’t mean there aren’t definite boundaries when it comes to riding in someone else’s car
- Don’t eat in the car without checking in with the driver first.
- Follow up to a. – don’t drink anything but water in the car. Save your morning joe for the office.
- Don’t apply your makeup in the car.
- Save all calls for once you’re out of the car.
- Make sure you don’t smell bad or bring any offensive odors into the car.
- Drivers, there are rules for you too.
- Clean up your car before picking up riders.
- Don’t play your music too loud.
- An amendment to rule b: keep your music/radio selection appropriate and non-offensive.
- 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.
- Safety. Comes. First. Whether you’re a rider or a driver, do you best to make the ride to work safe for everybody.
- 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.
- 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.