Check out Boulder’s Zimride network — free for students and faculty — at http://zimride.colorado.edu. .
University of Colorado students and faculty looking for a lift can recycle their “Boulder or Bust” signs.
The university this week launched a new carpooling network called Zimride that uses a private Web site, as well as Facebook, to hook up drivers and riders in a simple way that — thanks to the voyeurism of social networking — will ensure would-be carpoolers are never complete strangers.
“It adds a lot of humanity to it,” said Peter Roper, a program manager at CU’s Environmental Center who helped bring Zimride to campus. “It’s the whole social-networking aspect of it. You can chat with the person (you’ll be sharing a ride with). You can see if you have mutual friends.”
Boulder Zimride users can log in to the network using their e-mail address or Facebook account and list their starting points and destinations, and when and where they’d like to go. The service can be used to find a regular Monday-through-Friday carpool group or a one-time weekend ride to Las Vegas. Zimride will then match ride-seekers with ride-givers headed in the same direction.
And to be sure carpoolers get along, riders can list other information, such as how fast they drive, how loud they crank up their radios and whether they smoke. If riders access Zimride through Facebook and belong to the Boulder “network,” they can also check out each other’s profiles.
It’s a far cry from what existed before. When CU graduate Marc Formichella was looking for a ride from Boulder to Vermont this past May, the University Memorial Center staff directed him to an old wooden ride-share board hanging in a seldom-used hallway near The Connection bowling alley.
There, he filled out a small card listing his destination, date of travel and phone number, disregarding a warning typed on aging CU letterhead to not use his full name for fear of “crank/harassment callers.” As instructed, he hung the card on a hook beneath the board’s map.
“Nobody called from the board,” said Formichella, who needed to drop his dog off at his stepmother’s in Vermont. “I don’t think anybody’s been hooked up with a ride from that board. Ever.”
Formichella, who earned his Ph.D. in mathematics from CU, got a ride off Craigslist instead.
Zimride was started last year by two 25-year-olds who hatched the idea separately and were put in touch by a mutual friend. The pair decided to target colleges, which they figured were full of people hunting for rides and concerned about the environmental impacts of driving alone.
“Both of us graduated from college in 2006 and felt that carpooling could be the solution to the transportation and environmental problems we were facing,” said co-founder John Zimmer. But, he said, in order for Zimride to catch on, people would have to be comfortable getting into a car with someone they didn’t know. That’s where Facebook, ubiquitous among college students, comes in.
But Zimride isn’t just for students. CU sent an e-mail this week encouraging faculty and staff to sign up. According to the latest Environmental Center study, only 7 percent of faculty — and only 2 percent of students — carpool to campus. Boulder city and county employees, as well as employees of the federal NOAA and NIST laboratories, can also use the Boulder Zimride network, which can only be accessed with a CU, city, county or federal laboratories e-mail address.
The cost of the Boulder Zimride network — $10,000 this year — is being divided between the five entities, Roper said. CU, which is the biggest of the five, is paying the most: $7,000, split between the students and faculty. The city, county and federal labs are paying $1,000 each.
But Roper said he thinks the expense is worth it. As of Thursday afternoon, 410 people had signed up for Boulder’s Zimride and there were 2,800 trips posted. CU’s goal is to have 20 percent of people on the Boulder campus using Zimride by next May.
“We’ve got a large population of people willing to try something new,” Roper said, “especially if it’s better for the community.”