Taxpayers to pay carpoolers tolls

Link to article here.

This is offensive. Our federal tax money is PAYING people to carpool by reducing or reimbursing their tolls! So those of us who don’t fall into the social engineering incentives of big government, are paying for other people’s tolls meanwhile we pay for full price to access those toll roads. This is a form of punishment for single occupancy vehicles - those who have to ride to work alone. A $1 million federal grant won't last long if even a small number of people seek reimbursment for tolls. After the TxDOT-Xerox toll billing nightmare, do we really need any more evidence that a government toll reimbursement program will be handled any better? Seriously!

What's the benefit of this Carma App anyway? Why would someone pay 20 cents a mile to carpool? They may as well drive their own car, and there’s some serious liability involved when matching total strangers to ride in a car together.

App reimburses carpoolers for paying tolls
By Amber Downing
February 10, 2015

AUSTIN -- Austin is well known for it's traffic troubles, and the ever-growing population means it gets more crowded every day.

A new feature on a carpooling app may help. Commuters can now use Carma, a real-time, ride-sharing smart phone app, that pairs people with similar commute routes and schedules to enable them to find a ride or fill up their empty seats.

The app has partnered with TxTag, so drivers can be reimbursed for using toll roads. However, lately some people have raised concerns about billing issues, questioning how the app will work.

Two days a week, Mark Ridlehuber fills at least one of the empty seats in his car.

"I think this is a really great way to utilize people who are going to go to the same location anyway," Ridlehuber said.

His co-worker Shyleja Kumar sits up front and keeps track of her ride with the smart phone app Carma. She pays 20 cents per mile. Seventeen cents of that goes to the driver. The leftover three cents goes to Carma.

So far, about 2,000 central Texans are using this app -- meaning 2,000 fewer cars on the road.

"The one advantage we both noticed is that we don't have to fill the gas very often," Kumar said.

Ridlehuber and Kumar both live near the Four Points area, so they don't use toll roads right now. Once the variable toll lane opens on MoPac, they plan to start using it.

If they use Carma, they'll be reimbursed through a million dollar federal grant.

"We capture the GPS location of where they leave from and where they go to for their ride and anytime they're tracking their trip, we're able to access how much they were charged for the toll," said Lauren Albright, community manager for Carma Austin.

To get reimbursed, users register their TxTag account with Carma, which credits their account once a month. Users can then cash the Carma account out to their PayPal account.

"Everyday, back and forth, if they're collecting $1.50 a toll per day," Kumar said. "If they reimburse, that would be good."

This is something that could be a perk or a hassle depending on a driver's TxTag billing experience.

Users must still pay their TxTag bill. As for Carma, reimbursement isn't 100 percent unless you have at least three people in your car.

But even if you have one other person, you'll get half the toll back.