Florida paying Miami commuters to carpool
By Scott Blake
Want to make an extra $25? How about $50? Or even $75?
In a first for the Florida Department of Transportation, the state is paying commuters to carpool in an effort to ease traffic congestion in the construction zone at the State Road 836 (Dolphin Expressway) and State Road 826 (Palmetto Expressway) interchange near the southwest end of Miami International Airport.
If two people carpool through the zone, each gets $25 a month. If three carpool together, each gets $50 a month. For four or more people, that's $75 apiece monthly.
The heavily traveled construction zone is known for sudden traffic backups that can make driving there hazardous as vehicles zipping along the highways sometimes have to make sudden stops. And the situation isn't going away any time soon.
"The construction project on the State Road 826/836 interchange is expected to last several years and impact travel in the corridor," said Jim Udvardy, project manager for South Florida Commuter Services, a transportation department program.
"In order to make the commute more productive on the Palmetto and Dolphin," he added, "we are offering an incentive to help remove single-occupancy vehicles from the road to alleviate congestion."
Not just anyone is eligible for the carpooling money. When signing up, you must verify where you live and where you work, and show that your commute normally goes through at least part of the construction zone, said South Florida Commuter Services spokeswoman Suzell Hopman.
After each month, commuters in the program must submit a daily calendar record of their carpooling and who they carpooled with.
Ms. Hopman said only about 30 people have signed up for the carpooling program so far, but officials soon will launch an advertising campaign about it, including billboards and other publicity, that is expected to draw many more participants.
In order to carpool together, commuters don't have to work for the same company or in the same building, but they must work in the same neighborhood. In addition, their commute cannot both start and end within the construction zone, Ms. Hopman said.
The construction zone is generally bounded by Northwest 87th Avenue to the west, Northwest 57th Avenue to the east, Southwest Eighth Street to the south and Northwest 25th Street to the north
In addition, vanpools made up of five to 15 people who commute together in a passenger van provided by South Florida Vanpools also qualify for cash incentives.
The Miami-Dade Metropolitan Planning Organization will provide groups of vanpoolers with a $400 monthly subsidy for the lease of a van. And the state transportation department will provide vanpoolers with subsidies to cover up to half of the remaining costs of their lease, Ms. Hopman said.
There's also a little something for commuters who want to take the train, Ms. Hopman said: a $10 monthly cash incentive is available to each commuter who carpools to the Palmetto Metrorail station off Northwest 74th Street and takes the train to work and back.
To register or for details: 1-800-234-7433 or www.1800234RIDE.com/826-836project
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