Ride Share program looks to connect students for sustainable travel alternative
Washington University might offer its students almost every service imaginable, but until recently, those services have not extended as far as getting students home for the holidays.
Despite early difficulties coordinating with the administration, a new Ride Share program has begun connecting students to carpool from campus to students’ hometowns—and back—for winter break.
In the new system, students can sign up with their University email address and post travel information—which includes name, contact information, whether they are looking for or offering a ride, and their final destination. Later, organizers in the Green Events Commission (GEC) will connect students traveling to neighboring locations via email so they can coordinate carpools.
As of Sunday, 35 students had signed up for trips departing from the University, and four students signed up to share a ride arriving on campus before the start of spring semester.
Senior Tyler Loucky, co-chair of the GEC, said she believes the benefits of Ride Share extend beyond reduced carbon dioxide emissions.
“It’s a no-brainer. You’re saving money, you’re reducing the CO2 output and you’re sharing the driving burden with [your match],” Loucky said. “It just makes sense, and it’s strange that we haven’t been doing it.”
Loucky also said that the idea for Ride Share started among the GEC members nearly a year and half ago. However, despite the administration’s avid support, a previously existing relationship with GreenRide—a carpool-match service that partners with Parking & Transportation Services—limited the extent to which they could participate, thus delaying the initiative’s launch date.
With limited contributions from the administration, resources for the initiative are scarce. After a long wait to get Ride Share started, the GEC decided to run the sign up through a Google Doc.
Junior Allison Karp, head of public relations for the GEC, said she is optimistic about the program despite the limited resources.
“The response that we got was astounding,” Karp said. “We believed that even if we only paired one person that it would be a success. We put the Facebook event up, and an hour later, we had 15 people signed up. We’ve already matched three people, and we are trying to coordinate rides back.”
The Google Doc, however, falls short of foolproof, and the current registration system has limited security safeguards. GEC members are encouraging users to check their matches on WebSTAC Faces prior to departure, as well as meeting them in person if possible. So far, there have been no issues, Loucky said.
The GEC is also currently working to partner with a pre-existing rideshare service. At the top of its list is Zimride, a program that connects inner-city drivers and passengers through social networking.
“This program is starting to attract attention in the upper administration, so it’s going to hopefully induce eventual change,” Loucky said. “If we end up using Zimride, people can [form carpools] themselves, and ideally, we’ll replace the Google Doc system with Zimride.”
In addition to its user-friendly interface, Zimride is very secure, according to Loucky.
Joanie Steffen, a senior and Ride Share participant, first heard of the initiative through friends involved in the GEC. She is driving home to Chicago this winter break and bringing three students along with her.
“For me, the green aspect is really appealing. I have a car here, and it’s convenient to have my car here and at home with me over winter break, but I know it’s not as eco-friendly to drive back and forth, so it makes me feel a little better,” Steffen said.
She met two of her three passengers in a previous semester’s class and looks forward to reconnecting.
“This is so cool,” Steffen said. “I wish they had [Ride Share] before my last semester.”