Zimride, a social networking site designed to link carpoolers, enjoyed its most successful launch ever last week as the USC program opened, enrolling more than 1,500 students in a 72-hour period.
The company, named after co-founder John Zimmer, started up after winning an fbFund — a grant Facebook offers to application developers. Zimride already boasts a membership of more than 300,000 people in the United States and Canada, and has found early success at USC, which Zimmer claims is because of its integration with Facebook and partnership with USC Transportation.
Jeff Shields, associate director of USC Transportation, said the university decided to work with the company because it thought it would offer students an alternative way to travel.
“We were approached by Zimride several months ago, and after some considerable research, we felt their services would be a great benefit to the campus community,” Shields said.
Students can log on to zimride.com/usc using their USC email address, type in their starting and ending locations, and are then matched to other users who either need a ride or are offering one.
The process is free for users, although Zimride charges a subscription fee for the companies and universities it works with.
The program, which began at Cornell University, has now spread to universities across the country, including UC Santa Barbara, Stanford and UCLA.
“Institutions have generally been very receptive to the idea,” Zimmer said. “The word is really getting out.”
Zimmer hopes online ride-sharing will grow in popularity since it offers people an affordable and reliable method of transportation. Much of its current success is because of its Facebook application, helping students
bypass the website’s registration and connect directly to carpools via Zimride on Facebook.
“There is so much upside with the service,” Shields said “Providing our customers with as many viable and affordable transportation options is truly our end goal.”
Despite its initial success on campus, many students said they had not heard of it and some are still hesitant.
“My reservations would be about the close interactions with strangers,” said Alison McDonald, a sophomore majoring in biomedical engineering. “For it to be successful, it would have to take some cues from Zipcar and have clearly defined rules so that people would know what to expect, and any and all risks involved.”
Both Zimmer and Shields maintain, however, that the
ride-sharing program is completely safe.
“Users must have an active USC email address, and the Facebook application can also be used to help users build rapport prior to sharing a ride,” Shields said.
The Facebook application
allows users to get to know each other before having to share a ride, and Zimmer encourages users to look at the profiles of those offering one. If the person doesn’t have any friends or doesn’t have a picture posted up, it’s probably best to steer clear of them, he said.
“That’s how [Zimride] is different from Craigslist. On Craigslist, you don’t know who the other person is,” Zimmer said.
Despite those apprehensions, most students think the
ride-sharing program is a good idea.
“It would be cost-efficient,” said Kaushik Bangalore, a sophomore majoring in astronautical engineering. “It’s fine because I would get to meet the person before I take the ride.”
McDonald added that the program would also be a better alternative than the options students had before.
“I’ve attempted to use the city’s public transit on numerous occasions, and have had some pretty wretched experiences,” she said.