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Clean Tech applications: Ride share and carpooling

Remember how hitchhiking was an accepted mode of transit in America years ago? Well, now we have ride sharing. With approximately ¾ of commuters driving alone to work in the U.S. every weekday, alternative transportation modes bring many benefits.

Photo by dreamstime.comPhoto by dreamstime.com

Ride sharing is a simple way to save money, reduce one’s carbon footprint, provide opportunities to network and expand one’s contacts, reduce driving stress, as well as pleasant. Find friends, neighbors, and co-workers who are traveling the same way you are – for school, work, events or leisure – and share a ride.

There are several variations of sharing transit: carpooling, where pool members use their own private cars. Ride-share also refers to members jointly share the costs of a rented car; or sharing a ride in a hired vehicle with a hired driver, like a shared taxi, shuttle, vanpools, etc.

The concept is quite clear and the benefits are vast: reduces the costs involved in frequent commute or long distance driving by sharing cars, helps with traffic congestion by reducing the number of cars on the road, therefore decreases greenhouse gas emissions and pollution. It also maximizes effective use of limited parking resources (and saves drivers’ time looking for available parking-space), as well as saves on gasoline (and re-charge costs for hybrids and other plug-in vehicles). Shared driving can also reduce driving stress, promotes teamwork, and increases fun socializing, making the practice worthwhile.

Some corporations and local authorities have introduced programs to encourage workers to share rides. Whether companies want to improve employees’ daily commute, to effectively use scant parking space or support their sustainability initiatives by reducing solo-driver commutes, carpooling is an added benefit to all.

In addition, employers reduce their expenditure for public transit passes, when compared with achieving the same results with ride share programs.

The arrangements involve varying degrees of formality and regularity, and may include: central listings, defined pick-up points, geographical mapping, preferred parking space, and overall support by using wireless connectivity, such as mobile phones, laptops, and the Internet. Return on investment (ROI) tools are available to track usage, energy savings, cost-effectiveness, commute miles saved, the reduction in carbon emissions, and other parameters. Some programs provide commute incentives, promotions, and prizes (donated by participating and non-participating employers, and other organizations).

Clean tech business and community pplications of transit-share present many Green job opportunities and career paths: the software-based applications need professionals from several industries, such as technology, software developers, user-interface specialists, design, marketing, communications, sales, project management, finance, and more.

There are several cost-effective solutions in the Bay Area for companies and organizations deploying or enhancing an alternate commute program for their employees.

1. Ridespring

Ridespring, a 5-year-old company in Santa Cruz, CA, tailors its web-based program to each customer. A customized RideSpring web site is provided for the company, exclusively for its employees use. Ridespring also provides, what they call, a complete solution: Biking, carpooling, transit use, walking to work, are all equally promoted and measured. Their interface is easy to use and gives employees the control over their own commute. Ridespring was featured in several books, including ‘101 Ways to Turn Your Business Green: The Business Guide to Eco-Friendly Profits’ and competed for several clean-tech awards.

For more information check Ridespring.

2. ZimRide, Palo Alto, CA

Zimride ride-share solutions was launched in 2007 and has a dynamic model allowing individuals to match and collaborate on transportation opportunities. It offers an intuitive software system with Google Maps and the familiar social networking components (such as Facebook).

Zimride software provides a custom, user-friendly and flexible interface. It supports one-time rides as well as regular commutes and it also integrates shuttles, vanpools, etc. Usage and savings are tracked in real-time.

John Zimmer, a co-founder of Zimride, moved from New York City to Palo Alto last summer by carpooling across the U.S.

In April 2009, Zimride and Zipcar have joined forces to provide colleges and universities with an integrated transportation solution. Individuals can utilize a Zipcar or their personal vehicle and share the car ride among a network of acquaintances.

Click for more information on Zimride and Zipcar.

 

Comments

Ridesharing options?

Well written article, Michal, with a thorough discussion of the benefits of carpooling.

I think there are different Internet based rideshare matching services, each appealing to a different subset of the population. Each has the ultimate vision of doing good by helping to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. Ridespring is an excellent service for regular commuters going to work. But it is not practical for attending events. Zimride does a great job with college students, who have an extensive social network on Facebook and who have the need to find shared rides around school schedules.

But what about the rest of us? What if we only know a few of our Facebook "friends" really well? What if we want to find trip partners to social and business events but we want more security: that the person we share a ride with is safe and shares common interests?

This happened to me December 2007 when I wanted to see a show at MOMA in San Francisco on a Sunday and neither my husband nor any of my hometown friends were able to join me. So I was looking at a 150 mile round trip from Santa Cruz, in a car that holds up to four passengers. I've been an avid environmentalist since high school days and the price of gas was now over $4/gallon. So I tried searching online for a rideshare partner and found no one that I could trust to make a good car buddy. Zimride - who were these people? - would they smoke in my car? Would they groan when I listened to NPR or jazz instead of rap? And just because they had a Facebook account didn't mean they weren't predators. I checked the myriad of other Internet matching sites and found no security nor compatibility filters. I tried calling 429-POOL (the local government carpool source) and I got a recording. Two days later they phoned me back to let me know that they could give me a list of folks I could commute with on a regular basis. What good was that two days late? Who were these people? I was told I could meet with them over coffee and see if we got along. Who has the time for that?

With a clearly defined problem for people such as myself who do want to drive green but don't want a regular commute commitment, I decided to found ZoomPool. At ZoomPool.com, a unique Internet rideshare matching service, who we work with are people going to social and business events or on occasional trips (like skiing, getting to the airport, etc.) who are looking for alternative transportation. With our service, they save money and parking hassles while they go green and make like-minded, compatible new friends and business associates going to the same destination. We factor in personal preferences like gender, smoking, radio, and conversation levels to ensure a fun trip for all and very robust security filters are part of the service.

There are many ridesharing options for people these days and ZoomPool answers the need of one market segment. It is very important for each person to decide what kind of carpool experience they are looking for and investigate all options. Decreasing our personal carbon footprint by ridesharing can be done.

Ridesharing

One of my nieces was hitchhiking and was abducted by the driver and killed. Although I am a supporter of reducing your carbon footprint as much as possible, any ridesharing service that I used would have to provide a way for me to feel safer than I would by just agreeing to get in a car with someone I "met" via the internet. There are a lot of sacrifices I would make for improving the environment, but my personal safety isn't one of them.

Safer, social, green carpooling with ZoomPool

I've enjoyed using ZoomPool (http://www.zoompool.com) to promote ridesharing to my seminars (http://www.tinyurl.com/Executalk).  The thing I like about ZoomPool is that it provides a much higher degree of compatibility and security than any other carpooling program just based on Facebook or otherwise.  And as an event planner, it's easy to set up a ridesharing option for attendees in a few minutes with no hassle on my end.  And it already integrates with Eventbrite (http://www.eventbrite.com), the event management solution I use.

Actually I met the owner of RideSpring

Ridespring is a great company and one which I got to hear the two-minute pitch for at the Clean Tech Symposium this past year.  A great event that I would recommend for anyone interested in investing in green start ups or just keeping abreast of the new technologies being produced in the US. 

Sean Fitzpatrick is a burgeoning green entrepreneur and journalist with a juris doctor from Santa Clara University, School of Law. Currently, he is business development and community manger of KeenForGreen.com.

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