Carpool, a free online application that helps facilitate carpooling at colleges across the country, was launched on Facebook in July 2007. Supported by ASUCI as an alternative method of transportation for UC Irvine students, the program is fully integrated into the social networking Web site, allowing users to view the rides of friends and those in their local network.
Although the program is free and available to the public, it primarily serves college students who wish to split the cost of commuting with others by finding or providing rides to campus. ASUCI pays a fee to maintain a separate network of carpoolers available only to UCI students.
UC Santa Barbara graduate Logan Green, who often commuted to Los Angeles by carpooling, originally conceived the application. Dissatisfied with the uncertainty of carpooling with strangers, he was inspired to create an application that could simplify the process for carpoolers to find rides with certain kinds of individuals, according to an ABC news story. Green is now the CEO of Zimride, the Palo Alto-based company that owns the program.
Carpool allows users to specify the characteristics of individuals with whom they wish to ride with, including such things as how fast they drive, how loudly they play music and if they smoke. They may also join rides with users already in their network of friends. Those offering rides may request to be compensated for the cost of their commute.
With a 63 percent student commuter population, UCI may be able to profit from the practical and cost-efficient program.
“This might be beneficial to clubs who may have an event somewhere and are having club members drive other members,” said David Nguyen, a third-year computer science major. “The cost of commuting is definitely something that I hear a lot of my friends talk about.”
For others, the possibility of carpooling is not merely a matter of convenience, but a potential social opportunity.
Vivian Ly, a first-year computer science major, said, “I think it’s a nice idea in theory, but I don’t know if it’ll actually work in practice … People are more likely to get rides from roommates or other friends from UCI that they know have cars.”
Others expressed doubt about the likelihood of a long-term increase in carpooling.
“There were a lot of attempts to do carpool matching in the ’80s and ’90s, some successful, but carpooling has always been a fairly small phenomenon,” said Ken Small, professor of economics at UCI and an expert on transportation economics and energy use. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see an interest … I would expect economic reasons to increase demand.”
However, Small doesn’t expect much change.
“There are many obstacles to carpooling because of our increasingly complex lives,” Small explained.
Nonetheless, according to ASUCI President Megan Braun, the application has already garnered approval from many students.
“I’ve gotten e-mails and comments from students who are enthusiastic about the program,” Braun said.
UCI Parking and Transportation Services, which has co-sponsored the program in the past, will work with ASUCI to advertise the online application to students with posters and flyers.
ASUCI provides other “sustainable transportation” services to students, including a Zipcar rental program and busing, which provides transportation around campus.