511 Rideshare Rewards Program Recruits 231 Carpoolers in Just One Month; Agency Now Launches Interactive Online Game to Promote Ridesharing

Oakland, California (EastBayDaily) — 511 Rideshare, the agency that puts drivers into carpools and vanpools, has recorded a big leap in new sign-ups since the May 1 launch of its Rideshare Rewards program. 231 commuters have signed up to carpool and earn gift cards redeemable at Safeway stores and gas stations. In addition, 511 Rideshare is now introducing Carpool Adventure, an interactive cartoon game aimed at encouraging even more solo drivers to share the ride at rush hour.

“The object of the game is to get to work on time. If you carpool, the drive to and from work can not only be faster, but also cheaper.” said Tad Widby, project manager for 511 Rideshare. “We’ve posted the game on our Web site and we’re e-mailing the link to our data base of commuters.”

Marketing and communications manager Susan Gluss said that 511 Rideshare aims to create a “word of mouse” Internet viral marketing campaign to educate drive-alone commuters about carpooling and to encourage even more drivers to share rides to work. A viral marketing campaign typically leverages Web sites and emails to build awareness and positive buzz for a new service.

In the Carpool Adventure game, players choose one of three characters to represent themselves before they go through the process of finding a carpool partner and sharing the ride to work. To play the game, which takes less than a minute, point your browser to 511.org and click Rideshare.

Meanwhile, Widby said 511 Rideshare’s success in encouraging carpooling continues its upward curve with the one-month anniversary of the Rideshare Rewards program. Registration for ridesharing during the first five months of 2006 was up 65 percent compared to last year. Through June 1, Widby said about 6,811 commuters had registered for ridesharing compared to 4,122 through June 1, 2005.

When Rideshare Rewards was first announced the week of April 25, applications rose a whopping 210 percent compared to a year ago and daily carpool registrations jumped 200 percent, averaging about 109 per day compared to 36 previously.

Most of the new carpoolers hail from Alameda, Santa Clara and Contra Costa Counties, Widby said. He noted that the Rideshare Rewards gift card program, coupled with high gas prices at the pump, has motivated drivers to look for commute alternatives.

Under the rewards program, new carpoolers can earn $10 in gas or Safeway gift cards (Safeway is the corporate sponsor for Rideshare Rewards) for every five days they carpool, up to $100 within a three-month period. At year-end, 511 Rideshare will award $1,000 to one lucky participant who carpooled at least 40 days during the program.

Bay Area commuters have until July 31 to sign up and earn cash rewards.

To learn more about 511 Rideshare Rewards, go to 511.org and click Rideshare, or call 511 and say “Rideshare.” 511 Rideshare, like all the travel information on MTC’s popular 511 phone and Web system, is a free service.

“We couldn’t be more delighted with how our rewards program is progressing,” said Widby. “And we feel now’s the time for other drivers to discover the adventure of sharing the ride to and from work.”

About 511 Rideshare

511 Rideshare is a free service funded by grants from the Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and county congestion management agencies. It helps commuters find other drivers to carpool or vanpool together to work. Qualifying carpools can cross Bay Area toll bridges free of charge during commute hours, and those new to ridesharing may qualify for additional financial incentives or subsidies. For more information, visit the Rideshare page at 511.org.


Susan Gluss