How to hitch a ride on the Web
Ride-sharing sites take a page from Facebook to match riders with rides.
(Page 2 of 2)
So far, the site lists 10,000 users, an increase over just the past few weeks – probably the result of rising gas prices. “I think in general, ride-sharing is going to become a very common and socially acceptable way to travel,” GoLoco founder Chase says. “We will look back on today and think, ‘What were we thinking, driving alone in these expensive cars, using this much fossil fuel?’ and how boring and expensive it was.”
Why haven’t carpools caught on more? Perhaps people aren’t ready to give up the freedom that goes with commuting alone. “There’s a bit of inconvenience,” says Steven Schoeffler, creator of Erideshare, a ride-sharing website based in Edwardsville, Ill. “You have to adapt your schedule to somebody else’s.” Erideshare boasts 25,000 to 35,000 active users worldwide. But he also stresses the potential benefits – networking advantages in employee carpools and making friends with people in your community.
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Ride-sharing websites aren’t brand-new: A simple Web search for “carpool” or “ride sharing” returns a long list of options. But some ride-sharing websites jazz up the carpooling experience. NuRide.com, created in 2002, gives people reward points each time a person participates in a carpool. The points can be cashed in for gift certificates to restaurants, movies, and retail stores. Each time you travel with one other passenger you earn 100 points. The more passengers, the more points. (The service currently serves about 33,000 clients in parts of Virginia, Connecticut, Minnesota, and several big cities.)
Lisa Sattler-Biesak, senior executive for NuRide.com, notes that 6,000 new clients have signed up just since April. It’s “hard to get people to leave their cars at home every once in a while,” she says. “Once we were around $4 a gallon everything changed. People are now totally willing to change their driving behavior in order to save money.”
Travel-behavior analyst and author Alan Pisarski observes that these ride-sharing websites aren’t always indicative of carpooling trends. “They’re very anecdotal,” he says. “You don’t know really to what extent they’ve been formed [or] once they get formed [how long] they stay formed.”
There’s no doubt in his mind that carpooling has increased lately. It faded in the 1980s and ’90s, when fuel and vehicle ownership costs were lower and jobs were moving to suburbia, he says. Now he sees an increase in carpools among recent immigrants and families, forming what he calls “fampools”
“It’s really a trade-off between convenience and cost, and when the cost begins to rear its ugly head again, people begin to say, ‘Yes, it’s less convenient, but now that gas costs $4 a gallon I’m willing to ride with people.’”