When folks think of Seattle, they tend to think of a green city -- one that's pedestrian- and bike-friendly, with lots of opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities. And Seattle is all those things, but it's also known for its traffic. In fact, last year, the city ranked as one of the worst in the country for it. To alleviate the problem, Washington's Department of Transportation has teamed up with the makers of the Avego iPhone app in a new ride-sharing program.
The initiative is called go520, which refers to route 520, the site of some of Seattle's worst traffic congestion. The Department is limiting the pilot program to 1,000 participants -- 250 drivers and another 750 riders. Users sign up via the Avego website or the iPhone app and indicate whether they'll be driving or simply sharing the ride.
Riders pay a fee through Avego, which is automatically transferred to their designated driver's Avego account. (It's a little like using Paypal to take a cab.) Drivers not only get cash from their riders, but they also receive incentives from the Department of Transportation: gas cards worth $15 or $30 for picking up 10 or 20 riders each month, respectively.
The Avego ride-sharing app doesn't really break new ground -- in fact, it bears a lot of similarities to apps we've seen from Daimler, Zimride, eRideShare, and even Weeels. The biggest difference is the stamp of approval Avego has received from a state agency. Given that the biggest challenge of any social app is widespread adoption, this could be a game-changer. At the very least, it says that Washington state is open to new ideas in solving the problem of traffic congestion.
If you'd like to know more about Avego -- which works in any city in the U.S., BTW -- here's a demo clip: