As gas prices creep up right before the busy holiday travel season, Zimride thinks its Facebook-integrated ridesharing service can help both commuters and the planet – saving travelers money, reducing air pollution and even initiating friendships.
Founded in 2007, Zimride is an online marketplace where drivers can sell empty seats in their car to passengers looking for a ride. In its first few years, the San Francisco-based company focused on creating ridesharing networks at over 120 participating universities and companies across 30 states including UC Berkeley, Texas A&M, University of Michigan, Cornell, Facebook and Jet Blue.
Since its founding, Zimride has facilitated more than 26,000 carpools, helping members travel over 100 million miles and saving them $50 million in vehicle operating expenses.
Now the company is looking to expand its services to a greater audience, launching four new public routes in August: round trips between San Francisco and Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland, Seattle and Portland, and Seattle and Vancouver.
To encourage new members to take advantage of the public routes during the holiday season, Zimride is offering a $20 bonus to first-time drivers on the San Francisco and Los Angeles route.
Carpooling home for the holidays
The company also just announced that it is opening up a featured public route for the holidays, starting Thanksgiving Day: the 200-mile trip from the San Francisco Bay Area to Lake Tahoe, a popular winter destination for skiers and snowboarders. Zimride will give a $40 bonus – enough to cover a full tank of gas – to the first 500 drivers who book a ride along the new route, through the end of year.
“Tahoe has over 3 million visitors every year, and over 20 percent of the people headed to the South Shore come from the Bay Area,” says Logan Green, co-founder and CEO of Zimride. “Even more important, nearly 80 percent of North Shore visitors arrive by car.”
The ridesharing service is also partnering with several of Lake Tahoe’s top resorts including Alpine Meadows, Squaw Valley USA, Sugar Bowl and Kirkwood Mountain Resort to provide free and discounted lift tickets, VIP parking and other benefits to Zimride riders.
Don’t live on the West Coast? While the company doesn’t have concrete plans to build out public routes in other regions as of yet, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer John Zimmer says nationwide expansion is one of Zimride’s future goals.
“Zimride intends to build a new form of transportation that has more routes and more options than any previous transportation mode. So it’s inevitable that we will go across the country,” he says.
How Zimride works
Simply log in to Zimride with your Facebook account, and you can begin searching for a ride to join or for passengers to accompany you on your next trip – either a one-time journey or a regular commute.
If you’re offering a ride, Zimride will suggest a price for you to sell your empty seats, but you have the option to choose your own final price. Zimride facilitates ride payments through PayPal and will help you set up a PayPal account if you don’t have one already.
Before you agree to take a seat in a car or accept a passenger, you can view the other person’s Facebook profile to make sure you’re comfortable with the match.
Zimmer says that confirming a person’s identify on Facebook before carpooling makes Zimride safer than other ridesharing services.
“It establishes a higher level of trust. You see their picture, their networks and any friends you have in common,” he says.
Reducing pollution, creating community
Carpooling has long been touted for its environmental benefits, and Zimride’s founders think their company has the potential to make an impact on one of the biggest contributors to climate change: passenger vehicles.
“You have two people who were going to drive separately now sharing a ride – that cuts emissions in half,” Zimmer says.
But Zimride’s ridesharing model has advantages beyond reducing carbon emissions.
“We’re really excited about how our virtual social network is turning into a real community,” Zimmer says. “We’ve heard personal stories from users who have found jobs, new friends and boyfriends and girlfriends through Zimride. One woman even said that Zimride saved her relationship; she was able to afford making the trip to visit her long-distance boyfriend on a regular basis.”