Photo by Magali Gauthier
When it comes time to spend a weekend at home, visiting friends at other schools or simply taking a few days off for a much needed vacation, many college students encounter a problem with transportation. One solution, however, now comes in the unexpected form of social networking.
Zimride is a relatively new website that coordinates ride-sharing, letting members join private networks and choose people to travel with based on a common starting point and final destination.
“Logan Green [who is a University of California Santa Barbara alumnus himself] traveled to Zimbabwe and noticed how a country with very few resources was able to maximize their transportation by filling vehicles,” said Curtis Rogers, account manager of the University of California Santa Barbara’s Zimride network. “Recognizing that most vehicles in the US carried no people other than the driver, he saw great potential in this.”
This initial plan was put into action when Green meet John Zimmer, who shared a similar plan for a ride sharing business model, and the two further developed the concept before co-founding Zimride in 2007.
The main concept behind the site is simple. Essentially, the people being given a ride will pay the driver a reasonable fee in order to be driven along with them to their common destination.
“They can post a ride (commute or one-time trip) or search for existing rides… the ride match list ranks their options by location and timing,” explained Rogers.
One student at UCSB, first-year sociology major Susana Jimenez, started using Zimride over Thanksgiving as a way to get home.
“I liked it because it’s a cheap and convenient way to get around, and I don’t have to bother looking up train or plane schedules. [With Zimride] they even take you right to your door and everything,” she said.
Although Zimride is open to the general public, many universities have their own networks with the site so that students can coordinate rides within the school. Given that most of the time the people who ride together have never met, these types of private networks help ensure safety when choosing a ride. Users can also connect through Facebook, as well as create a Zimride profile. This way, any personal information that they put up on both networking sites is available for other Zimride users to see.
“Safety is a big priority at Zimride,” said Rogers. “We provide different layers of security… [Users] can look at comments about the ride and check out the other person’s profile and Facebook page to get an idea of whether or not they want to ride with the person. They normally message other users and many people text or call before the ride to discuss specifics.”
He relieved any worries for potential Zimride users, assuring them that “it’s normal to not feel ready to jump in the car with someone you’ve never met. The social features on the site help a lot with that.”
Unsurprisingly, ride sharing with Zimride has led to the formation of more lasting relationships. One part of the site, called Zimride Stories, allows users to post about their experiences.
“By zimriding, I met Shoshanna who is now like a sister to me,” posted one user, Farida N.
Rogers elaborated on this aspect of the website.
“Lots of people have sent in stories about meeting their best friends on Zimride. Many relationships have started after Zimriding, and even a marriage between two people that met using Zimride,” he said.
What started out as simply an innovative idea has evolved into a full-fledged networking site that is practical, easy to use and enjoyable. Judging from the positive response from users, it seems that the Zimride slogan “Life is Better When You Share the Ride” is certainly true.