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Legal Rideshare Company Encourages Carpooling in Austin

Updated: Tuesday, August 19 2014, 03:25 PM CDT
Have you ever had the thought while fighting traffic in Austin "who are all these people?" City transportation officials believe single occupants are clogging our roads. The Texas Transportation Institute reports there are 900,000 empty car seats every workday in Central Texas thanks to single occupants. This week the rideshare program, Carma Carpooling, announced it's teaming up with Austin-based RideScout to encourage more people to carpool. Thursday, KEYE TV's Deeda Payton used the Carma Carpool app for the first time.

"We tried out the Carma Carpool app and found Mark who has graciously offered me shotgun in his Honda Civic. We're headed to lunch at Whole Foods. I'll let you know how it goes," said Payton.

"Our drivers are already headed from their origin to the destination. They're just picking up a few people along the way", said Russ Garcia who is a spokesperson for Carma Carpooling.

Garcia showed us how to start a trip and choose a driver on the app. Our driver, Mark, then planned the trip and accepted us as riders.

"It's actually 20 cents per mile per passenger and then the driver can make up to that 54 cents depending on how many passengers they have," said Garcia.

Accepting any more than that would be illegal for a rideshare in Austin which is the problem with Uber and Lyft. "It's mainly the drivers that are accepting money above 56 cents a mile which they need a chauffer's license and they need to operate under an operating authority," said the Assistant Director for the Austin Transportation Department, Gordon Derr.

Derr actually encourages carpooling, "We've always tried to get carpool matching going. There's been efforts for 20 years to try to get people that work at the same business to find each other and get fewer cars on the road."

How do you know if your carpool is safe? "We don't do a full background check on all of our users although we definitely reserve the right to do so." Carma users have to rely on peer references and the driver or rider's facebook profile which is linked to the app.

If it does become a concern we can work with Carma, but at this point we don't have anything in the code that would give us the power to regulate them," said Derr.

"I made it back all in one piece," said Payton.  "Mark dropped us off back at our KEYE TV News Unit so I can carpool back to the station with our photographer."

By Deeda PaytonLegal Rideshare Company Encourages Carpooling in Austin

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