University Rideshare increases carpooling to campus
Monday through Friday, students spend hours traveling from campus to campus, but when the weekend arrives, it is time to visit home. They pack their cars with loads of textbooks and laundry, yet there are still three or four empty seats in the car and there is no one to talk to during such long drives. Gas prices are increasing — it is time to carpool.
Having had the opportunity to grow up in the Bay Area, the concept of carpooling is nothing new to Alexander Lang, a University of Wisconsin—Stevens point alumnus. He chose carpooling as a means to get to work, which ultimately provided him the inspiration of what he hopes to accomplish — the University Rideshare group.
“I saw much value in what it potentially could provide for other students and their families. Not only would students have a greater opportunity to make it home and see their families, but with Rideshare, now less often would families have to drive their children, sometimes hours back and forth from school,” Lang said. “I also saw the benefit towards the universities as it would cut down traffic and reduce the number of CO2 emissions, something that universities are certainly looking to do.”
Lang started his first Rideshare group in 2008, when he was still a student at University of Wisconsin—Stevens Point.
“My original motive for Rideshare was actually of much self-interest because at the time I did not have a vehicle, and realizing that if I established a carpool group on Facebook I could then catch rides with other students who had extra space in their car,” Lang said.
The growth of his Rideshare group at University of Wisconsin—Stevens Point eventually got the attention of the school newspaper, the administration and the university's sustainability committee who revealed their support for Lang.
This inspired Lang to branch his work out to other universities, with the intention of eventually bringing these networks under one central website that not only would prove to be of great benefit toward students, but also a network that could eventually generate profit.
“A few years back one professor gauged that a student on an average would use the group about four times a year," Lang said. "However many students use it far more frequently, even as much as on a weekly basis, depending on the particular university.”
Currently there are nearly 150,000 students who use from the Rideshare group at about 75 universities across America, Lang said. And there are now 1,807 students in the Rutgers group according to the Facebook page. The group is completely reliant on social media since communication is based on Facebook.
Goldy Landau, a junior at Wellesley College, is a co-manager of the Rideshare group with Lang.
“I’ve always liked to travel, and I also like social entrepreneurship and bringing people together,” she said.
Landau started Brooklyn Rideshare, Boston-NY Rideshare, NY Jewish Rideshare and many other and community-based groups.
“Alex contacted me when (he) came across several of my Rideshare groups. We exchanged ideas about social networking, traveling for cheap or free and social entrepreneurship,” Landau said. “We became friends and made each other admins of our groups. Managing so many groups can get time-consuming, so having a friend to help is invaluable and efficient.”
Brooklyn Rideshare was Landau’s first Rideshare group when she found herself stuck without transportation. She sent requests all her friends who have cars and those who look for rides. Everyone started adding their friends and the group quickly became popular.
Landau realized the service's popularity so she started several more.
“College Rideshare pages are great because there are many young people in one location. The drivers can benefit by obtaining gas money, and students appreciate this easily accessible availability of transportation with people from their school,” Landau said.
To this public group that anyone can catch a ride with complete strangers, Lang ensured the safety for students.
“To get into these groups, students must have stated in their Facebook profile that they are in fact either a student, faculty or recent alumni at a particular university, with exception to other universities within close proximity,” Lang said. “This is to insure for a safer environment for students who are looking to travel over the weekends and holiday.”
The location-based groups are open for anyone to join. Landau has also added the safety warning to those groups stating: “This service completely relies on social media, and one must be part of a specific group to look for or offer rides there.”
Different groups have different "vibes." Some of them are very quiet while others are very popular, Landau said.
“This has the potential of being a wonderful community project, especially with Thanksgiving Break coming up. Even if you have a car, commuting with others driving in the same direction with carpooling can reduce carbon emissions, decrease traffic and allow you to meet new people,” Landau said.
Lang encourages people carpool more often.
“I believe that there is fundamental problem with transportation in America. For many students getting home on the weekends can be so challenging that students often times opt not to visit home at all in the first place,” Lang said. “I have spoken to professors who have pointed out that services like this actually retain student enrollment, because they are less likely to become homesick (and have) a greater ability to go home to see their loved ones.”