Ridesharing apps an option if BART workers strike

August 1, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
As the threat of a BART strike looms closer, a lot of people are wondering how they're gonna get to work. It turns out there's an app for that, and they're even offering incentives for people willing to step up and drive carpools next week.

Cars backed up for miles, as workers picketed in front of shuttered BART stations a few weeks ago. It's a mess Laura Mannino remembers all too well.

"It was ridiculous," she said. "I mean they were backed up so far back, it was unbelievable how many people apparently were still driving into San Francisco that week."

Commuters loaded onto buses and ferries and lined up on street corners for casual carpools. Mannino did something she's never done before -- she agreed to drive a carpool in her own car.

"I was able to help out a few people to get to the office," she said.

Mannino found passengers on a mobile app called Carma. Yes, Carma with a "C." It's like casual carpooling, but without the mess at the curb.

"You can check out someone's profile and look at their photo, and I can choose somebody and say you know what, they're going to my building," Mannino said.

Carma has actually been around for a while. It used to be called Avego, and it was used mainly to plan carpools from neighborhoods to BART stations. But during the last strike by the transit agency, all of that changed.

"Our usage went up 9,000 percent and we maintained about 30 percent of that usage," said Carma's Paul Steinberg.

He admits it may be because they raffled off helicopter rides to a few lucky users. This time, they're running a more practical promotion.

"Pick people up and carry 'em into the city, we'll give 'em 25 dollars towards parking in the city," Steinberg said. "And that happens every day next week, strike or no strike."

To qualify, you have to pick up carpoolers at one of Carma's special locations -- at Spear and Folsom in San Francisco or at the Ashby, Pleasant Hill, or Hayward BART stations.

There will be other transportation apps running promotions. Sidecar waived its fee for drivers during the last strike, and Lyft says it's about to announce something.

Carma's a little different from those apps because it's not like hiring a driver. It's traditional carpooling, where you start and end in the same place, and pay a few bucks for gas.

"You're not gonna make a lot of money using Carma," Steinberg said. "But if you give someone a ride today, in the future when you need a ride, someone's gonna give you a ride back. And that's what we call good Carma."

Stay with ABC7NEWS.COM for updates on the looming BART strike and information on how to get around if the trains stop running. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ and download our news app for the latest news whenever and wherever you want.


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