It's now easier than ever for Washington area commuters to find carpool partners, locate park-and-ride lots, and access other information and resources to help them find easier, less expensive ways to get to work.
Commuter Connections, a program of the Transportation Planning Board, recently announced the launch of its new mobile-friendly website and new mobile apps to allow commuters to easily access commuter information using their smartphones or tablet computers.
The new mobile-friendly website allows commuters to find information about carpooling, vanpooling, taking transit, bicycling, walking, and teleworking. Commuters can also sign up for 'Pool Rewards, an incentive program to encourage first-time carpoolers, and the Guaranteed Ride Home program, which provides commuters with free taxi rides home in the event of illness, unscheduled leave, or other personal emergency.
With the new mobile apps, commuters can search for carpool partners by entering their home and work locations and work hours and download contact information for people with similar commute patterns. The apps also show the locations of park-and-ride lots in the region where commuters can meet carpools and vanpools and leave their car parked during the day.
Currently about 15,000 people are registered in the carpool database and can use the new apps to manage their preferences and access information. The apps are available for download through the Apple iTunes Store and Google Play, and will soon be available for BlackBerry.
Launch of the new mobile resources continues a 40-year tradition at Commuter Connections of using the latest technology to help area residents take advantage of options other than driving alone to get to work.
When the program got its start 40 years ago -- known then as Commuter Club -- commuters would submit their ridematching applications by mail, program staff would keypunch the information onto IBM punch cards for computer processing at an off-site facility, and results would be sent back to commuters by mail.
In the 1980s, by which time the program had come to be known as the RideFinders Network, dial-up network connections between local ridesharing agencies and a new on-site processing computer helped speed the return of ridematch results to commuters.
The 1990s brought further advances, including the use of GIS mapping tools to match potential carpool partners, the launch of new online websites to allow commuters to access ridematching and other information remotely, and another change in name -- to Commuter Connections.
Today, commuters can access a wide array of commute information and resources using online tools from Commuter Connections. The recent launch of the new mobile-friendly Commuter Connections website and new mobile apps extends the reach of the program into the pockets of commuters on the go who are looking for better ways to get around the region.
Future plans include updating the mobile apps to include additional features like the ability for individual users to track their daily commute trips and support for dynamic ridesharing options.