Ridesharing means riding together in one car or van. Sharing the ride saves money on fuel, insurance, and car maintenance. Ridesharing can also reduce time spent on the road, because vehicles with enough passengers can use High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes and 495 Express Lanes. When they're not behind the wheel, passengers can read, nap, or chat, reducing stress. Ridesharing also helps reduce air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and traffic congestion.
There's more than one way to share a ride.
Ridesharing can be as simple as family members, neighbors, or coworkers deciding to ride to and from work together. But that's not the only way. Local governments, employers, and private companies offer ridesharing services to match you to an existing carpool or vanpool, or help you form a new one. For instance, in Arlington County, many commercial buildings are required to manage carpool/vanpool incentive programs that offer convenient, reserved spaces and reduced parking rates for 'pool vehicles. Recently, several companies have begun to offer services that allow users to share rides on an occasional basis -- not just for their everyday commute.
The most familiar form of ridesharing, carpooling usually involves a group of people who both live and work near each, commuting together in a private vehicle. Carpool members may take turns driving, and members benefit by not having to drive every day. In some commercial areas, registered carpools get access to convenient reserved parking spaces at reduced parking rates. Although carpooling is usually associated with regular trips to and from work, carpoolers enjoy some of the same benefits when they share a ride to any destination.
A vanpool is generally formed with the help of an employer or vanpool service. Each vanpool has a primary driver/coordinator and one or more alternate drivers. The vanpool participants share cost of the van and all other operating expenses. Riders usually meet at a designated pick-up location like a shopping center parking lot or a park and ride location. The number of pickup and dropoff locations depends on the nature and needs of the vanpool group.
Vanpools, unlike carpools, are also eligible for federal tax benefits. Under current federal policy, employers may give their employees a subsidy to commute via vanpool; this contribution is then eligible for a tax deduction, and the employer saves over providing the same value in gross income. Or, employees may use pre-tax income to pay for vanpooling expenses, or a combination of both, up to statutory limits. This offers another financial incentive to share the ride.
An interesting side effect of HOV lanes has been the establishment of unofficial carpool-formation areas called "slug lines." Commuters catch free rides with drivers who need additional riders to be able to use the HOV lane along their route to and from work. Learn more at Slug-Lines.com.
Guaranteed Ride Home
If you regularly share a ride to work, you may be eligible for Commuter Connections' Guaranteed Ride Home (GRH). GRH provides free taxi rides home when the unexpected happens. Guaranteed Ride Home is also available to commuters who use other commuting alternatives, such as transit or bicycling. More about the Guaranteed Ride Home Program.
495 Express Lanes are available to high-occupancy vehicles and toll-paying customers. All users will need an E-ZPass® transponder; high-occupancy vehicles will need the E-ZPass Flex.
Arlington County Transportation Benefits by Building
Find out if your Arlington apartment or office building offers ridesharing incentives or other transportation benefits such as bike storage or SmarTrip cards.
Information from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) about E-Z Pass® and E-Z Pass® Flexsm.
Park and Ride Lots
For commuters who can't walk, bike, or take transit to the carpool or vanpool meeting place or slug line location, Park and Ride Lots provide a place to leave the car.
Information about slugging, or "casual carpooling," in the Washington, D.C. area.