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The carpool lane looks so alluring, but as a lone driver it’s very much off limits. Unless you pick someone up to ride along with you.
That’s what the aptly named Waze Carpool service hopes to do: pair riders and drivers looking to share a ride and whiz through traffic — or at least slog through it a bit faster.
On Wednesday, Google-owned navigation app Waze finally expanded its Carpool service throughout the U.S. The low-cost ride-sharing option first rolled out in 2016 in a few U.S. cities and later opened up in California, Massachusetts, Texas, Washington, Illinois, and Nevada. Now it’s in all 50 states. Carpool is also available in Brazil and Israel (Waze started as an Israeli company).
As part of the expansion, Waze Carpool is partnering with Amazon to offer its services to 50 Amazon Fulfillment Center sites around the country so employees can ride together instead of driving themselves to and from work.
This is very much a grab into the ride-sharing services that have become popular on ride-hailing apps Uber and Lyft. Earlier this year Lyft revamped its app knowing that shared rides were vital for users — 35 percent of rides on the app are shared. It’s no secret that Uber Pool (and Uber Express Pool) offer cheaper rides as long as you’re willing to squeeze in with other riders and take a less efficient route.
On Waze, instead of designated drivers, these are everyday commuters who have some empty seats. Riders pay for gas, which comes out to much less than the taxi-like costs of traditional ride-hailing apps, even for shared rides. A Waze ride home from my San Francisco office brings up rides from nearby drivers asking for about $1.60. On Lyft, a shared ride on a similar route is $13.20. Uber Pool is $12.60 and Express Pool is $6.30. A bus ride home on the local public transit system would be $2.50.
This isn’t much of a money-making opportunity, so labor and worker rights issues don’t come into play for this service. The expanded carpool service comes after drivers in New York City secured guaranteed hourly pay rates and the city capped the number of vehicles that could operate for services like Lyft and Uber.
For drivers who want to turn on the ride-sharing service, it’s only a button away within the existing Waze app. For anyone looking for a ride, a separate Waze Carpool app connects you to drivers who can pick you up. You can also request or offer rides up in advance, so you can plan for that ride home at lunchtime.
It’s basically like the old-school carpool pickup zones known as “casual carpool” here in the Bay Area to get that HOV status to cross the Bay Bridge. Only now it’s done through an app. Carpooling is timeless.