Carpooling & Vanpooling
Sharing the ride saves money on fuel, insurance, and car maintenance. It can also reduce time spent on the road, because vehicles with enough passengers can use High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes and 495/95 Express Lanes. When they're not behind the wheel, passengers can read, nap, or chat, reducing stress. Carpooling and vanpooling also help reduce air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and traffic congestion.
There's more than one way to share a ride.
Sharing a ride 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 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.
Carpooling usually involves a group of people who live and work near each other, commuting together in a private vehicle. Carpool members may take turns driving, and members benefit by not having to drive every day. Carpools that meet the HOV requirement can use HOV and Express lanes, and registered carpools may get access to 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. Increasingly, ride-matching services are becoming available that can match drivers and riders for individual trips, not just every-day commutes.
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.
Like carpools, vanpools that meet the HOV requirement can use HOV and Express lanes, and may get access to reserved parking spaces at reduced parking rates.
Unlike carpools, vanpools are eligible for federal tax benefits. Employers may provide employees a tax-deductible subsidy to commute via vanpool. Or, employees may use pre-tax income to pay for vanpooling expenses. Tax breaks provide another financial incentive to share the ride.
An interesting side effect of HOV and Express 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.
More Information and Slug Line Resources
Sameride - Commuter Community for HOV/HOT carpool. Download the free Sameride app.
Slug-Lines.com – Slugging and slug lines information for the Washington, D.C. area
Sluglines.com – Bringing community to the slugging world
Smartslug.com – Free Web app for slugs and drivers
Ridesharing and Ride-matching Services
Services operating in the Washington, DC area that provide information, match riders to carpools and vanpools, and assist in forming carpools and vanpools.
Express Lanes are available to high-occupancy vehicles and solo drivers willing to pay a toll. All users will need an E-ZPass® transponder; high-occupancy vehicles will need the E-ZPass Flex.
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.