Carma Carpooling intern and Sonoma State University student Lacinda Moore stands at a table at the Rohnert Park park and ride.
Sonoma County transportation officials this week launched a new version of an online app that brings commuters together to share rides.
The new Carma Carpooling app is easier to use and safer than the original, said Amy McCrary, Carma project coordinator. There are fewer screens to navigate in the new version, and the passenger can log a trip, leaving the driver free to focus on the road.
The app, launched two years ago, allows drivers with smartphones and those looking for rides to find each other and start a carpool together. Using the app, the passenger can send the driver a payment to cover the cost of gas.
Carma staff this week have set up booths offering free coffee and pastries at park and rides along Highway 101 from Santa Rosa to Petaluma to explain the benefits of the app to commuters.
“We’re telling carpoolers that they are already doing the (ridesharing) behavior,” McCrary said. “With Carma, they can add people to their carpool or find someone if their carpool buddy is unavailable.”
The publicly funded program is a partnership between the Sonoma County Transportation Authority, the Santa Rosa-based Climate Protection Campaign and Carma, an app developer based in Ireland. Now in a trial phase in Sonoma, Marin and Contra Costa counties, it is designed to reduce traffic and greenhouse gas emissions.
The program is offering new incentives to get commuters to use the app that is free to download on Apple’s app store and Google Play, or at the Carma website at car.ma. Users get a $5 bonus for signing up, $10 for the first car trip, and $50 for 50 shared rides. Every Wednesday, Carma staff will offer $5 vouchers for lunch at restaurants such as In-N-Out and High Tech Burrito with proof of a carpool trip that day.
More than 1,200 Sonoma County commuters are using Carma, McCrary said, accounting for 3,618 rides since the April 2012 launch.
Heidi Fiedler, who works at Agilent Technologies in Santa Rosa, said she has more than 230 Carma trips under her belt.
“I’ve introduced several of my co-workers to Carma,” she said. “It’s really helped carpooling become a standard part of our vocabulary. The Carma rewards have also been a big motivator.”