Thursday, November 21, 2013
By Jon Brooks : KQED
The rise of the “sharing economy” is disrupting many industries -- especially the taxi industry. That's extremely apparent in San Francisco, where app-based ride-service startups threaten an entrenched business model, and traditional cab drivers worry they're being left behind.
Thursday, August 08, 2013
California is considering a new regulatory approach to deal with—not ban—taxi industry disruptors like Uber and Lyft but established taxi companies are crying foul.
Monday, July 15, 2013
The rental car company Enterprise continues to expand into car and ride sharing through acquisition. This time, the industry giant picked up five year-old Zimride that helps people carpool on longer distance rides.
Thursday, July 04, 2013
The BART strike left hundreds of thousands of Bay Area commuters scrambling for a way to work, but some companies found an upside: ride-sharing apps like Avego and Sidecar all experienced huge bumps in ridership during the strike.
Monday, June 10, 2013
By Derek Wang : KUOW
In the Seattle area, some cars are driving around with oversized, hot pink moustaches on their front grills. The prop signals an increase in ride sharing. But for some companies and cabbies, the pink moustache is a red flag.
Wednesday, August 01, 2012
California's leading carpool company is now bi-coastal. Starting today, Zimride will help drivers in the Northeast sell rides in their private cars as they travel between New York, Washington, D.C., and Boston -- and, if anyone is willing to pay for a seat, anywhere else.
"We're excited about the East Coast because of all the success the bus lines have had," said John Zimmer, founder of Zimride. His service is a substitute for bus travel or driving alone. "From San Francisco to Los Angeles we have 250 - 300 drivers every week [who offer to sell seats in their car]. And we expect a similar type of density on the East Coast," he said, primarily because the cities are closer together. Zimride also hopes to benefit from passengers looking for low-cost transportation in the wake of a recent shutdown of several Chinatown bus companies.
The company's website connects drivers and prospective passengers for trips of more than one hour. (There's a local version called Lyft available in San Francisco). Drivers can set a price for an empty seat on a trip they plan to take, and passengers can pay -- or make a counter offer. All payments go through through the website, giving Zimride a cut of up to 15 percent. The prices tend to be about the same as taking a Chinatown bus -- meaning cheap enough to rack up 300,000 rides from 360,000 users in California, on 140 college and corporate campuses, since 2007. The pace of growth has doubled the pace in the past year.
Taking that business model to the busiest travel corridor in the country, though, is a big test for the concept of carpooling in America. "The reason we have created Zimride is because 80 percent of seats are empty on highways," Zimmer said.
The company calls it 21st-century hitchhiking.
As TN has reported before, Europe warmed to the idea long ago, but Americans continue to associate riding with strangers to consorting with ax murderers.
Zimmer figures trust is the secret sauce to success. "Because our application is integrated with Facebook, you can see who are going to ride with before you ride with them," he said, "and so you can choose someone that is most likely going to be a fun experience for you." Pick your experience: adventurous, safe, or romantic. (At least one wedding has resulted from ride sharing through Zimride so far.)
As with the European experience, Americans tend to come for the savings -- and stay for the experience. The first-time Zimrider likely chose carpooling to save money. But repeat users say they most value the social aspect.
Zimride suggests a price based on mileage, so New York to D.C. should be about about $25 for a passenger. That's a bit more than a curbside bus, but it could involve door-to-door service.
To grow the business in New York, Zimride will "feed the marketplace" at the start through targeted advertising online. If the company can get a critical mass of thousands of drivers offering up seats to Northeast corridor cities each weekend, the same number of cars zipping up and down the highways can be carrying a few extra thousand people.
Friday, April 20, 2012
Even in the worst traffic jam, our roads are still mostly empty. That's if you think about the car seats, not just the cars. For commutes, the average number of people per car in the U.S. was 1.1, according to 2008 data. That's a lot of unused capacity.
Or, as Odile Beniflah sees it, a millions of idle assets, wasted resources. She is working to launch Carpooling.com in America. Europe's largest ride sharing company used by 2 million people each month in 45 countries. And that's just through one website. It's cultural, she says. “People [share rides] first for the money, but they come back to it because they enjoy the experience, they enjoy the social aspect.”
The United States, on the other hand “has the largest network of empty seats on the planet."
Eighty-six percent of people ride to work alone. Just 10 percent of Americans carpool to work, including family members who ride together, down from a peak of 19.7 percent in 1980. For reference, about 5 percent take transit, and some people alternate modes. (Chart 8.15 here)
That’s because more people live alone, live farther away from easy pickup spots like parking lots near bridges and on-ramps, and don't go to the same places as their neighbors.
“In America, carpooling can only work if it’s convenient and easy,” Beniflah says after months of study to prepare for her company’s launch later this year. “The main reason Americans don’t carpool is the difficulty of finding someone else with the same location and schedule.”
Essentially, Beniflah says, Americans prioritize easy over cheap when it comes to travel. So it’s no surprise that the two “successful” U.S. carpool systems—in San Francisco and Washington, D.C—are flexible and convenient, what is known as casual carpooling. Riders wait at what are essentially taxi stands, then jump in with drivers who want access to HOV lanes or to save on tolls and gas without going out of their way. In 2009, these programs were used for about 3,000 trips a day, saving about 3 million gallons of gas a year.
So what will it take to get Americans offering rides to strangers?
Technology. Beniflah and a crop of other American entrepreneurs are hoping they can use online tools to match up empty seats with aspiring travelers. “I think you shouldn’t ride with strangers,” she says. Her service encourages reviews (like Couchsurfing.com uses for apartment sharing) to build trust, plus links to Facebook profiles and descriptions of the car to provide a full picture of whose empty seat you’re filling. “When you look at the ride offers, you really know who you are going to ride with, you have so much information." You can even pick the car type, or reserve a front seat. Riders and drivers set their own prices, and the company’s website plays matchmaker, taking a fee if users pay online.
Flinc integrates GPS navigation systems in cars and smartphones to connect people more efficiently. Zimride has been building a growing audience in the younger driver set -- a demographic less interested in owning or driving cars to begin with. Ridester is beta testing what its founders call a smart route-matching system.
All of them are trying to crack the puzzle and shift the mentality of thinking about giving someone a lift as a finding a potential road trip buddy instead of a hitchhiking ax murderer. By formalizing it online and using technology, Beniflah thinks, the U.S. could be more like Europe by tapping our idle asset of empty seats, economic efficiency is something we're supposed to be good at anyway.
A version of this post also appears in GOOD.