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New program creates communication for carpoolers

The Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) has introduced a social ridesharing network to USF that gives faculty, staff and students an opportunity to find carpooling partners.

Last week, Zimride, a free, national social networking organization for carpoolers, was brought to USF for $7,500 for the academic year. The program was paid for by the CUTR. However, Julia Bond, a senior research associate for CUTR, said the center is hoping Student Government or another organization can cover costs next school year if the program proves effective.

In the week since USF introduced the program, 250 profiles have been created by students and faculty members, Bond said.

USF students and staff can log in to Zimride’s website with their NetID’s and create a personal online profile. Users are able to select date and time information for convenient carpooling, as well as edit personal profiles that allow other users to discover information like their favorite type of music to listen to while driving and if they smoke cigarettes.

Dawna Ishler, 27, an academic service administrator for the College of Marine Science at the St. Petersburg campus, said she drives every day to work from Tampa.

“Creating an account was pretty straight forward,” she said of the Zimride website. “It was simple (and) not a difficult application.”

Ishler said she enjoys the simplicity of using her NetID and has been matched with one person so far, but has not yet carpooled because she believes they live “a little too far” out of her way.

Ishler said when more people become involved in the program and she has more available matches, she will carpool and “save gas, mileage on (her) car and be able to take a break from driving.”

Students add their daily route to their profile, which allows the program to match other people in their area who share similar commutes. Matched students can then communicate through messages and correlate carpooling information.

Even though Zimride matches carpoolers, it is a user’s responsibility to communicate with their matches and confirm rides, Bond said.

“Zimride is also linked to Facebook, so users are able to post their rides (on their wall) for their friends to see,” she said.

Bond said users may feel more comfortable meeting and carpooling with others if they are able to “meet” them through Facebook first.

Not only will Zimride be monitored for student use, but it will also serve as the object of various research efforts. USF will study the carbon dioxide emission levels and number of miles saved by using the program, she said.

WeCar, a car rental program for students on campus, is another CUTR research project that promotes carpooling. If more students decide to use either option, Bond said the result could be a safer campus for pedestrians and a significant decrease in on-campus congestion.

“If enough people get involved, (carpooling) can help out the environment, congestion and parking issues,” she said.