Carpooling goes online in digital age

Zimride reportedly is used by about 80 colleges and universities.

Just in time to confront the latest jump in gasoline prices, Illinois State University is joining with other universities that are using an online ride-sharing company to make it easier for students, faculty, and staff to carpool.

All but gone are the days when students tack notes on bulletin boards asking for or offering rides. Like many other activities, ride sharing has gone high-tech.

As a result, ISU is paying about $15,000 to partner with Zimride to help commuters connect through the social networking sites Facebook and Twitter. The effort was launched Feb. 28, with eMails going out campuswide.

Julie North, ISU’s director of parking and transportation, said campus surveys have shown increasing interest in carpooling. She said that interest is being fueled by a combination of higher gasoline prices and attention to the environment.

The midsemester timing of the launch is no accident. With spring break around the corner, students are expected to be keenly interested in sharing rides to and from traditional spring break destinations or to and from their hometowns.

But the program is also for ISU workers wanting to share the work commute.

“My goal would be having 600 to at least 1,000 people [participating] by fall of 2012,” North said. “It takes the first year to get ridership established.”

North said information about the program will be provided to incoming freshmen through various means before their classes start in the fall.

Zimride was started about five years ago by a couple of entrepreneurs in their mid-20s and has grown to include more than 350,000 users on about 80 college and university campuses, including all the campuses in the University of Wisconsin system.

ISU will be the first university in the state to take part. Moraine Valley Community College in northeastern Illinois also is a Zimride partner.

The system will be open only to people connected with ISU. They will need to log in using a university eMail address and password.

Work on the ride-sharing program began last fall and has included student government representatives.

ISU will receive information from Zimride on the number of participants, gallons of gasoline saved, and reduction in the university’s “carbon footprint.”

Copyright (c) 2012, The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Ill.). Visit The Pantagraph online at Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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