carpooling using social networking

My university just launched a social networking site (hosted by Zimride–see a short video here) for students, staff, and faculty to rideshare and carpool.  Users can offer a ride by posting time, location information, and price, or they can search for existing rides.  Zimride seems to work using Google Maps, databases, social networking practices, and decent search options. Zimride was inspired by Zimbabwe’s low tech ridesharing system, which works well without the aid of google.  My university’s Zimride system been operational for about a week, but a quick search already indicates several rides in my neck of the woods.

There are not many economic incentives for carpooling in the metro Richmond area, which is why the bus system isn’t as popular as it could it. But I wonder if the wide use of social networking tools combined with a heavy dose of eco-guilt will help it take off. The benefit of Zimride is that it creates a flexible transportation system that can supplement public transportation routes.  It can be extremely helpful to those who cannot drive due to disabilities or health problems.  I am anxious to see how users create a set of ridesharing paths and hubs where carpoolers can meet up, since users will be indirectly recommending bus stops and routes for a better public transportation system.  The routes will reflect seasonal demand more so than a subway or bus system would.

My campus is a good candidate for ridesharing tools, since the options with the public bus system are limited.  Most bus routes go through the downtown, but most students–and I–are on the uptown campus.  Since I need to work around my kids’ schedule, I’m not sure if I will be able to take advantage of Zimride except in am energency, but I am glad to know that getting to campus will be a lot easier if something comes up.

On a side note, I tested out Zimride’s commute calendar, which  allows users to organize their trips (whether they rideshare, walk, bicycle or drive to work) and then generate a report about miles saved, CO2 saved, and dollars saved.  The report has some naive assumptions (e.g., it doesn’t take the miles driven to a rideshare location into account, it assumes a running cost of $0.55 per mile and 25 miles per gallon), but I suppose the report gets you into the ballpark.  Accuracy probably is not really the point.

Have you used Zimride?

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