Do you drive on I-275? You could win $190 to participate in the USF carpool study

Do you drive on I-275?  You could win 0 to participate in the USF carpool study

If you drove on Interstate 275, chances are you sat in the middle of traffic. You’ve probably also seen drivers tailgating at high speeds and changing lanes without signaling.

The University of South Florida’s Center for Urban Transportation Research is studying the effectiveness of new carpool detection software, hoping to reduce congestion and emissions by encouraging alternatives to solo driving.

Sara J. Hendricks, a senior research associate at the center with more than 25 years of experience in transportation and demand management planning, is leading the project.

The center has partnered with the National Institute for Congestion Reduction and the Florida Department of Transportation to test the accuracy of a private provider, RideFlag, which has developed something known as vehicle occupancy detection.

In the RideFlag app, rideshare users take a photo of their group. RideFlag provides real-time validation of rideshares by detecting the number of people in the vehicle, collecting location data by looking at the group’s freeway route, and then using this information to deliver the correct information. high occupancy vehicle benefits for carpool users.

Hendricks wants to know: Does it work?

At the moment, the enforcement of HOV lanes is a challenge. Camera systems can be expensive to maintain and vulnerable to extreme weather conditions. It can also be difficult to see inside cars to determine how many people are in that vehicle, Hendricks said. And using law enforcement personnel is inefficient and potentially dangerous, he added. RideFlag, he says, could help.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Sara J. Hendricks
Sara J. Hendricks [ AIMEE BLODGETT | Courtesy of Aimee Blodgett/USF ]

How did this study come about?

This is one of several studies under the supervision of the National Institute for Congestion Reduction, a program conducted by the Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida College of Engineering. CUTR earned a competitively awarded national designation as a University Transportation Center for conducting various research studies under CUTR’s NICR program. My study is an NICR-funded research project that also received a matching grant from the Florida Department of Transportation and seeks to test the accuracy and reliability of a mobile application that uses technology to determine the number of people in a motor vehicle.

How were the Miami-Ft.-Lauderdale-West Palm Beach area, the Tampa Bay area, and Utah selected as sites for this study sponsored by the National Institute for Congestion Reduction?

The Miami-Ft. The Lauderdale-West Palm Beach area is key because the express lanes of I-95 serve this region of South Florida. Shared vehicles containing a driver and at least two passengers can register with South Florida Commuter Services for free access to the dynamically priced toll lanes of I-95 EL. This free access is intended to incentivize carpooling. More passengers traveling in fewer cars means less traffic congestion. The problem is that ensuring that a driver who claims to be part of a carpool is actually one and not someone who is driving alone. We are looking for carpoolers to volunteer to help us test a technology in a mobile app that checks vehicle occupancy. In addition to carpoolers using I-95 EL, we are also looking for carpoolers driving on I-275 between Bearss Avenue and State Route 60 in Westshore to test the mobile app. In addition, carpool users in the state of Utah who drive on I-15 also help us test the app.

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What do you hope the study will achieve and what is the significance of the I-275 corridor?

We are using I-275 to simulate a highway facility experiencing traffic congestion and for which increased carpooling could reduce traffic congestion. If the mobile app works as intended, it could be used to ensure that true carpool users can receive rewards such as free or reduced-price parking and other incentives to encourage carpooling.

Accurate vehicle occupant counting will be an increasingly important tool in incentivizing car and vanpooling to reduce traffic congestion. The ultimate goal: reduce traffic congestion by moving more people in fewer vehicles.

What should people interested in potentially participating do?

We are still accepting new carpool testers to help us test mobile app functionality using vehicle occupancy detection technology. All a carpool needs is a driver with at least one other passenger, a mobile phone, and a route of travel that includes any portion of I-275 between Bearss Avenue and SR 60. This portion of I-275 could be as short as getting on I-275 at one entrance and exiting I-275 at the next exit. Registered rideshare testers will receive a $5 gift card incentive per rideshare validated and registered using the mobile app. You will receive compensation of up to $190 in Amazon Gift Card value for your participation.

More information and a the registration form can be found here.

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