Irish startup Carma, founded by Irish American Sean O’Sullivan, is a smartphone app that connects people traveling the same direction for work. The company launched a new initiative this morning that reimburses drivers for bridge tolls as an incentive for Bay Area commuters to carpool. Drivers will receive rebates on toll fees through the Carma app when they carpool with at least two passengers using the app across the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.
“Mobility is a key factor in our region’s economic vitality, and we’re excited to see how innovative technology, like Carma, is incentivizing people to change their behavior and consider new ways of commuting to work or school. Our mission is to keep Contra Costa moving and programs like this help commuters, the economy and the environment all at the same time,” states Randy Iwasaki, Executive Director for the Contra Costa Transportation Authority.
More than 90 million vehicles cross the Bay Bridge each year on weekdays, but only 5 percent pay the carpool rate using FasTrak®. This means there are as many as 250 million empty seats available- which equates to nearly 1.1 million seats available every day that could be filled with carpoolers.
Carma predicts that if every vehicle crossing the bridge shared their car with just one rider it could cut commute times on the Bay Bridge in half.
Carma’s goal is to make ridesharing easy and flexible, reducing the number of cars on the road and improving traffic congestion and air quality. Carma matches drivers and riders in real time, enabling them to set up carpools and share the cost of driving through automatic in-app payments. To date, Carma has established carpooling programs in Norway, Ireland, Austin, Texas and the San Francisco Bay Area. Since launching in the San Francisco Bay Area last year, nearly 6,000 riders have taken trips using Carma, covering almost 90,000 miles.
“Living in San Francisco, I’ve tried all the new options for getting around, and they've been handy for nights out with friends, but none of them helped me where I was feeling the most pain – rush hour," says Shannah LaRoche, Carmapooler. "I began using Carma because, as a school teacher, I have a lot of supplies to bring with me and BART is just too far of a walk from my school. I love the fact that I’m getting back some of the cost of driving when I use Carma - when I heard they were offering no bridge toll for Carmapoolers it was music to my ears!”
Under the terms of the rebate program, three-person carpools using the Carma app can receive $2.50 toll rebates crossing the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Drivers must first download the Carma app at http://www.carmacarpool.com, and then register their FasTrak® and license plate info via their profile screen. Promotional details may be found here.
“The toll for SOV (Single Occupancy Vehicle) drivers on the Bay Bridge is $6 per day, which accounts for $1,500 per year that could be used towards other costs of living in the Bay Area,” says Paul Steinberg, VP of Business Development at Carma. “Now, commuters can sit back and share a ride that’s green, faster and most of all—affordable!”
How it works:
Carma is free to join. Riders pay just $0.20 per mile to contribute towards drivers’ costs and drivers receive 85 percent of the collected fee for their drive.
1. Download the Carma Carpooling app for iPhone or Android
2. Set up your profile and input your normal commute schedule and route
3. Carma shows your nearby matches. View profiles and message potential drivers or riders to schedule a trip
4. Tap ‘Start Trip’ - Carma starts recording trip distance
5. Tap ‘End Trip’ - payment is transferred from rider to driver