Casual carpoolers unfazed by recent assault and heist

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Carpoolers continued to line Beale Street to participate in informal ridesharing Wednesday, just a day after a female carpool driver was carjacked and threatened with an alleged bomb.

Jason Hall of Vallejo expressed concern, saying he has only participated in the unofficial program for the last two weeks.

“I hope this doesn’t ruin it for everybody, because it is a cool concept that saves both the driver and the commuters money,” Hall said, adding that his commute used to cost $20 a day and now costs just $3.

On Tuesday morning at 8 a.m., a 41-year-old woman picked up two passengers at the Hercules meeting point for casual carpools, an informal service, with several passenger pickup and drop-off points in the East Bay and in The City.

The program, which is the only informal one of its kind, allows drivers and commuters to save money by designating spots where drivers can pick up and return commuters. In addition to the money saved by both parties on gas and tolls, cars filled with commuters can take advantage of the carpool lane, and passengers and drivers save time. The 2004 census reported that 10 percent of American commuters rely on carpools.

On Tuesday, when the female driver reached Fremont and Mission streets to drop-off two passengers, one of them exited the vehicle while the man in her front seat pretended to exit but got back in the car and quickly slammed the door, according to San Francisco police robbery inspector Steven Mulkeen.

The man threatened the woman and demanded her purse as well as a ride to Richmond.

He then informed her if she did not comply he would “blow her up” with a “bomb” — a cardboard cylinder with a wick at the top he had pulled from his knapsack, Mulkeen said.

As the woman approached Howard and Fremont streets, the man punched her in the face and proceeded to hold a lighter to the wick of the cylinder, Mulkeen said. The woman then grabbed her purse and jumped out of the car as the suspect drove off in her 1995 Acura Integra.

Despite the carjacked woman’s story buzzing the pickup stop Wednesday, driver Katherine Nguyen, who has been picking up passengers from the same casual carpool spot on Beale Street for three years, said she doesn’t feel unsafe.

eeconomides@examiner.com

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