Zimride facilitates student carpools

by Ann Baum | 12/2/08 4:17am

When Student Assembly introduced Zimride, an application on Facebook that facilitates student carpooling, to Dartmouth's student body, its goal was to have 500 users by Thanksgiving. The Assembly exceeded that goal last week, with 637 Zimride users listed on the application's web site as of Monday.

The number of actual rides shared, however, was harder to determine. Many students use the application to find potential rides, but use other means to contact each other, such as an e-mail or a Facebook message, John Zimmer, co-founder and chief operating officer of Zimride, said in an e-mail to Cory Cunningham '10, co-chair of the Assembly's Student Services Committee. Cunningham is a member of The Dartmouth Business Staff.

Of Dartmouth student users, approximately 40 percent are freshmen, 25 percent are sophomores, 20 percent are juniors and 15 percent are seniors, according to Zimmer. These statistics, however, do not include a number of alumni, faculty and staff who listed rides that appear on the Dartmouth page of the application.

Dartmouth users have posted a total of 265 rides, with an average trip length of over 200 miles, Zimmer said. Posted rides do not always translate to shared rides, though. The web site does not automatically connect rides with riders.

Brian Bosche '12 requested a ride to Manchester on Nov. 21, but could not find a carpool, he said in an e-mail.

Other students found more success with the program. Benjamin Jones '10 offered a ride through the application and found a passenger for his trip to the University of Pennsylvania. Jones said Zimride was the best ride-share application he has seen, describing it as "really easy to use." He also praised carpooling as a way to improve the driving experience.

"It's nice to have someone to talk to," Jones said.

Jones had previously written an article about Zimride for an online blog for the web site EcoModder.

The process was convenient and helpful, according to Julia Liedel '11, who said she requested a ride through the application and successfully found one.

"It was much, much cheaper and more convenient than taking lots of buses, so that was excellent," Liedel said in an e-mail.

One common concern of carpooling is the fear that a car ride with a stranger might be uncomfortable. Emily Liu '12 added the application, but expressed doubts about carpooling with someone she had never met.

"If you don't know the person, it's like an awkward dating situation. I wouldn't subject myself or anyone else to that," Liu said.

Liu also questioned whether it would be worthwhile to request a ride when she saw so many requests to the same destination.

The Assembly is evaluating its plans to continue hosting Zimride and is considering the next phase of the program. A second phase may include a link directly from the Dartmouth web site to the Zimride application, making Zimride accessible to members of the Dartmouth network who do not have a Facebook profile.

In its Nov. 11 meeting, the Assembly passed legislation to promote Zimride by raffling off gas cards to people who offered rides through the program. The Assembly also sent campus-wide e-mails to advertise Zimride.

The application's ability to publish stories in users' Facebook profiles is another means of publicity. Before launching Zimride, Cunningham said, he hoped students would learn of the program when notifications of other students' use of the application would pop up on the "news feed" section of Facebook profiles.

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