SNOWSHOE MAGAZINE FEATURED ARTICLE:

Shared Transportation Pioneer Zimride.com Opens San Fran to Tahoe Route

San Francisco-based Zimride.com, a pioneer in shared transportation for the corporate and university world, is opening a new public rideshare route just in time for winter. Though Zimride has stuck mainly to college and corporate campuses and has only brought in public routes with an urban, city-to-city theme, like San Francisco to Los Angeles, it is now opening its first truly recreational drive, San Francisco to Tahoe. John Zimmer, Zimride’s co-founder, cites his proprietary route-matching algorithm determined San Fran to Tahoe was a natural next step. “Tahoe fits nicely because it’s a three and half hour trip and people drive it frequently,” he says. Studies show San Fran residents average 20 times a season and that 80% of their seats are empty.

How it works? Zimride users set up a profile via a quick and easy Facebook interface that accesses basic information–name, image, and number of friends. The profile takes seconds and once in you can set your rider and driver preferences, like non-smoking only, the type of car you own, a description of your ideal seat-mate, and the music you listen to. If only flying were this personal. From here you can post a ride, include the number of seats for sale, and set your price; or purchase a seat along an already set route. Nifty search functionality also allows you to plan your next trip too.

For the San Francisco to Tahoe route the suggested price per seat is $25 one way. “Drivers typically follow our pricing suggestion,” Zimmer says. “But we listen and adjust according to what people [drivers and riders] want to pay.” A quick search of the new route revealed a post for $22.00 per seat by user ‘Nick G’ who is cruising to Kirkwood for the weekend. Anyone? Nick G has two seats left.

But what about safety? Zimride relies on Facebook for users to vet riders and drivers Zimmer says. The alternative to finding rides has been Craigslist.com. “Facebook shows a picture, how many friends you have and if you have any mutual connections, and it gives an idea about your network including schools and jobs,” Zimmer adds. Zimride also allows drivers and riders to post feedback about their experience. And if it’s your first time you can ask your Facebook friends to vouch for you. Sort of a LinkedIn-style request for a reference, only this one asks for a good mention of how you are to travel with and if you have any annoying road trip behaviors.

At the moment, the service has a few perks. First, it is free to users. There are no transaction fees right now Zimmer says, “but there will be in the future.” Second, the first 500 drivers for the San Fran to Tahoe route receive a complimentary tank of gas.

Plus, you might meet a new friend. It’s not just about making money or funding a trip you had already planned on driving. Zimride adds a new dimension to social networking too. “It’s more fun to meet people as you travel,” Zimmer notes. “Zimride gives you a chance to get to know each other on the way there and back.” Plus you have something in common – the necessity to get to a winter environment for all things snow.

Until now, users have been mainly college-aged or young professionals in their 20s. Zimmer says it’s a younger demographic because they were the early adopters of technology, “but we think that will change with this new type of route.” I agree. Old people, you know 30s and higher, like to save money, make new friends, and romp in the white stuff just like the 20-year-olds.

While this new Tahoe route is the focus for the 2011-2012 winter season, Zimride has its eye on other natural recreation routes – think I-70 corridor in Colorado or maybe even California’s 395, the crowded corridor that delivers winter enthusiasts from San Diego and Los Angeles to the Eastern Sierra and Mammoth Lakes. To take a test drive, visit www.zimride.com.

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About Cathleen Calkins

Cathleen Calkins is a California-based writer and award-winning photographer. After 15 years in the corporate arena, she opts for the quiet of her office and works with national consumer and trade magazines, newspapers, online publications and custom print and web advertorial communications. Her specialties include adventure, sustainability, travel, health, fitness, lifestyle, tourism, and branding.

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