October 6, 2011 — University of Virginia students, staff and faculty can hitch a ride online with a new service called Zimride.
Members of the University community can log on to the Zimride website using their Netbadge identification or sign on to the service through Facebook. Once on the site, members can offer or seek a ride. Responses pop up in their email.
"Zimride is student-oriented, connects with Facebook and will help students get rides out of town,'' said Jonathan Monceaux, transportation demand management professional with the Department of Parking and Transportation. "It can also be used by faculty and staff seeking to share commutes and make longer trips."
Though students may use Zimride to book rides across town, Monceaux said the service will most benefit students who are seeking out-of-town trips. They can also negotiate rides from students at other schools. Zimride is available at the University of Richmond, George Mason University, James Madison University and Virginia Commonwealth University, and U.Va. students can share rides with members from these destinations. As an example, a U.Va. student could catch a ride to Richmond with someone from JMU who is already driving there.
Zimride, based in Palo Alto, Calif., views ride sharing more than an environmental exercise and transportation decision.
"We embrace ride sharing as a social activity, and Facebook provides a rich social context to connect and establish trust," the company's website says. "Zimriders can view profiles for common networks, interests and friends before deciding to share a ride. The Zimride community has also greatly benefited from a recent Facebook fbFund grant, recognizing Zimride's useful and innovative integration with their platform."
Once members post a desired trip, they also have an option of sharing it on their Facebook wall.
"This can attract his/her Facebook friend who may have not originally been considering a trip to Harrisonburg, but now that his/her friend is going they may want to jump on that trip," Monceaux said. "This is like posting on your wall 'I need a ride to JMU this weekend. Is anyone else going?'"
Monceaux said joining the service costs the University about $11,000 a year, but noted the University gets a discount because of its affiliation with Zipcar, a service that allows members to hire cars by the hour. Zimride also links to Zipcar if a person cannot connect for a ride.
"Members unable to find a ride are presented with an option to reserve a Zipcar, if they are a Zipcar member," Monceaux said.
"Zimride, in conjunction with our other alternative transportation programs, is making it easier for students to attend the University without bringing a car with them," he said.
Fewer vehicles on Grounds means less congestion and less demand for limited parking spaces.
The system also allows Parking and Transportation to generate reports on usage to help make assumptions on reductions in carbon emissions and vehicle miles traveled.