Northern Virginia officials have the latest way to carpool -- and they're going to pay military workers and contractors to do it, at least for a while.

A new pilot ride sharing program managed by the Northern Virginia Regional Commission will give drivers to Fort Belvoir, the Mark Center or Marine Corps Base Quantico $25 in gas per month along with a reward based on mileage if they'll give a few other commuters a lift.

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  • But this isn't just your grandma's carpool. The new program, called real-time ridesharing, will allow commuters to find rides from wherever and whenever they need using a smart phone app.

    Riders under the new program would be allowed to ride five times for free. After that they would pay drivers $1 per pick-up and 20 cents per mile using a cashless, automated system.

    Officials hope the ride sharing will help reduce traffic congestion caused by shifting of thousands of defense workers around Northern Virginia as the Pentagon consolidated bases and offices.

    The new program will resemble slugging -- the organic, unregulated system that allows commuters to catch rides up Interstate 95 with drivers who want to use the faster High Occupancy Vehicle lanes.

    "We help to create a virtual slug line," said Jason Conley, director of government relations for Avego, the company that created the ride sharing app. "The idea is you're giving an incentive to drivers to pick up someone you may not know."

    But the six-month ride sharing pilot won't necessarily use the HOV lanes. And it will cost $600,000, funded with a $447,200 grant from the Federal Highway Administration and $91,000 from the Virginia Department of Transportation. Local governments, including Alexandria and Arlington and Fairfax Counties, will be providing $29,000 worth of advertising and support for the program.

    Those interested in participating can start to sign up in March. The ride sharing would begin in May or June. And officials hope that once the free rides and gas cards end, commuters will keep using the program to find rides and save money, paying the driver the 20-cent mileage rate via the app.

    Only government contractors or military employees will be eligible for the ride sharing pilot program, though the app is available to anyone.

    And officials warn that the details of the program could still change.

    "We're in the very, very early stages of this," said program manager Peggy Tadej.