Traveling in the company of strangers has been around since long before Amtrak or those super cheap (and equally as sketchy) Fung Wah buses. Chances are our ancestors had to deal with the hot breath of a Western-bound fur trapper, who looked like he might be coming down with typhoid, along the Oregon Trail–or give up their seat for a pregnant woman on the overbooked Mayflower.
Earlier this week, a new ride-sharing service called Zimride launched in New York and Philadelphia to make carpooling with strangers a little more friendly. The service, which requires you to log in using Facebook, lets users sell a seat in their car or bus. Drivers can determine the amount they want per seat, which gives them a chance to split the cost of gas. Members can search by time of departure and destination. But the defining feature are user profiles that import limited personal details Facebook, like the kind of music or sports you like, along with a profile pic, to help people find a better road trip or commuter companion.
Like Metallica and wakeboarding? Zimride helps you find the right bro to rock out to “Enter Sandman“ or brag about how sweet your Surface 360 maneuver is on the way to the Jersey Shore. Unfortunately, the company is still working on a feature that lets you filter by interest, but clicking on a profile does offer some insight into potential seat mates.
Zimride, which is based in San Francisco, was started in 2007 by two college kids that decided to merge social networking with ride-sharing after nervously awaiting the arrival of a mysterious Craigslist driver. It dawned on them that unused carseats could be filled with passengers pitching in gas money, instead of Dorito crumbs and Slim Jim wrappers.
Cofounder and COO John Zimmer told Betabeat about his East Coast college days, “Riding trains and buses wasn’t all that convenient, and when we did drive, we couldn’t help but notice all the empty seats, especially in the New York area where there are so many heavily trafficked routes: New York to Philly, The Hamptons, D.C., Boston. We wanted a way to fix the problem.” Since the company’s East Coast launch on Wednesday, Zimride has already exceeded the volume of posts from its first months on the West Coast.
According to Mr. Zimmer, people come back for the social experience. “Zimride has formed friendships, boyfriends, girlfriends—even a wedding!”
While Zimride was initially created for shorter day trips there are even posts cross-country. Take Greg K., who will only charge you $200 for a seat in his Volkswagon and he’s into Bad Religion and “trying something new.” Sounds like a hot ticket as long as you aren’t in a hurry and don’t mind being stuffed in that hatchback with Greg’s two dogs.
Want to get up to Ithaca? There’s a guy, Daniel W. who will take you up there for just a cool $25 but you might get stuck listening to his favorite bands, Goo Goo Dolls and Lifehouse. Don’t worry, there’s still a bus that goes up there too—you’ll just have to pay double.