While Gibbons, played by Ron Livingston, inches forward in his car on his way to work, he glances over to the sidewalk. There, he sees an elderly gentleman using a walker — and moving along faster than traffic.
Sometimes traffic jams form for no clear reason at all. But transportation planners around the country are trying to fix those worst-case, pull-your-hair-out, rush-hour traffic scenarios — to your benefit.
One proven way to reduce congestion is to put fewer cars on the road. Along with buses, trains and other forms of transportation, planners are looking to carpools for help. A number of communities across the country will now pay you, or give you some perks, for sharing your ride with a friend or coworker.
That’s right: In addition to making money with your car as an Uber or Lyft driver, by renting out your car for $10 an hour or by becoming a used car investor, you can also get paid to carpool to work.
Research has shown that commuting makes us feel lonely. With a carpool, you might make a new friend. And hey, you have to get to work somehow — you might as well get paid to do it.
How to Get Paid to Carpool
Share your ride. Log your miles online. Get cash, parking vouchers or free gas. It’s often that simple, depending on your community.
Chances are if you live in a metropolitan area, or near a highway or road with consistently high congestion levels, there’s a carpool incentive program nearby. Carpools save on the cost of gas, give the environment a break and allow you to take the quicker carpool lane.
If you’re a new carpooler in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, you can make up to $2 per day over a 90-day period for a maximum incentive of $130.
If your carpool drives in the I-95 Express Lanes, you can each earn an additional $100 bonus. All you need to do is go online, log information about your commute and complete surveys about the experience.
If you can find at least six other friends to commute with, you could earn up to $200 per month in a new vanpool. Some companies will provide vanpooling employees an additional $130 each month, too.
Similar Programs Around the Country
D.C. commuters aren’t the only ones reaping the benefits of carpool incentive programs.
In the counties near Birmingham, Alabama, drivers make up to $70 over 90 days for taking alternative transportation or carpooling.
In Florida, you can earn up to $150 (depending on the size of your carpool) per month. You can also get eight free hours toward a car sharing program in Miami if you register or are part of a carpool.
Near San Jose, Calif., drivers get up to $60 in free gas for carpooling.
People who drive on the busy highway between Boulder and Denver can make more than $75 for carpooling or vanpooling.
How to Find Carpool Members
Many incentive programs will help you find fellow riders that share your route. Failing that, there are a handful of nifty ways to connect with potential passengers.
RideJoy is a website and iPhone app that helps you find fellow riders. You can post your trip and name your price per seat in many cities around the U.S. The site helps with a suggested price based on average trip costs and what other passengers have paid in the past for the same trip.
Check the bulletin boards in your office or local community center to see if other people you know are looking for a carpool driver. Search Craigslist with keywords “rideshare” and “carpool.”
Tips for Making Your Carpool a Success
Once you’ve gathered a group, here are a few tricks for making your morning and evening commutes go smoothly:
- Quickly establish a method of payment, either in cash or via a service like PayPal, for shared expenses and incentives.
- Establish meeting points and decide how long the carpool is expected to wait for late passengers.
- Draw up a carpool contact sheet.
- Lay down ground rules about things like music, smoking and pets.
After that, watch the money pour in for something you’d be doing anyway.
Your Turn: Would you consider sharing your ride to work for a little extra cash?
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Sarah Kuta is an education reporter in Boulder, Colo., with a penchant for weekend thrifting, furniture refurbishment and good deals. Find her on Twitter: @sarahkuta.