Mostly Cloudy77° WeatherMostly Cloudy77° Weather

Zimride gives carpooling a boost at USF

USF student Mike MacCarthy walks through the WeCars parking area on campus.

SKIP O’ROURKE | Times

USF student Mike MacCarthy walks through the WeCars parking area on campus.

Students, faculty and staff won't be taking trains to the University of South Tampa any time soon, thanks to the defeat of a local transit tax.

But that hasn't stopped urban planners from trying other ways to reduce the number of pollution-spewing cars on the road.

USF has joined college campuses nationwide in offering a new program that connects drivers with riders looking to carpool to class or work. Consider it the digital-age equivalent of handwritten signs posted on a student center bulletin board.

Zimride works under the premise that too many cars drive around town with empty seats. And who better to fill those seats than college kids strapped for cash?

Recent college grads John Zimmer and Logan Green started the car-sharing program a few years ago in California using $250,000 in seed money from a Facebook grant. It embraces the idea that carpooling is a social activity and connects drivers and riders much like Facebook connects old friends and new acquaintances.

Zimriders post when and where they'd like to go and create personal profiles with their favorite music, radio stations and smoking preferences to ensure the most enjoyable ride possible. Carpooling requests are e-blasted to USF's Zimride members and can be posted on individuals' Facebook pages.

USF, where students finished final exams this week, started Zimride in October and it has quickly grown to 750 members. In November, it partnered with University of Central Florida's Zimride network to help expand carpool options between the colleges.

"Anyone traveling west on I-4 can offer a ride to UCF students and split the travel costs," said Julie Bond, a senior research associate at USF's Center for Urban Transportation Research.

So far, most requests at USF come from riders seeking a lift to the Tampa campus. A few are drivers from Lakeland who want help with gas money.

Jan Allyn signed up for Zimride to find someone to share her 32-mile commute between campus and her home in Pinellas County. She connected with a woman who lives 3 miles away and works on Fletcher Avenue.

"It gets old driving an hour each way alone,'' said Allyn, who works in the Florida Center for Community Design and Research. ''And cutting your bill in half can make a difference.''

USF paid $7,500 for Zimride for a year and hopes a student group or outside organization will pick up the cost should the program prove successful.

Throughout the year, researchers will keep track of the number of miles saved and the pounds of carbon dioxide emissions eliminated because of the program.

"USF is really trying to become a sustainable campus,'' said Bond, who bikes to work daily from her home in nearby Temple Terrace. "Transportation is a huge part of our carbon footprint.''

How students get around

Zimride may be the newest and hippest transportation alternative to reach USF, but it's certainly not the only effort to reduce congestion and pollution. Here are some other ways students, faculty and staff get around without their own cars.

• WeCar has four rental cars available at the Tampa campus for shopping runs, meetings and short overnight trips. Students sign up at wecar.com, reserve a time and pick up one of the cars parked outside the Marshall Center or Center for Urban Transportation Research. The cars rent for $7.50 an hour or $22.50 a day, which includes gas, insurance and a designated parking space.

• U-Pass lets students ride a HART bus for free. They show their school IDs to the bus driver, and hop on board. Staff and faculty ride for 25 cents. The school pays the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority a discounted rate for every trip taken through the program, which is funded through student fees. There were 389,448 trips logged last fiscal year (July 1, 2009, to June 30, 2010).

• The Bull Runner goes around campus and to the University Mall. The fleet of 30 buses, which run on biodiesel, gave 1,029,385 rides last fiscal year.

• Anyone who carpools, takes a bus, walks or bikes to school at least two days a week is eligible for emergency rides home. Registered users get up to eight free taxi rides a year from school to home because of an illness or family emergency. usf.edu/bullrunner.

Zimride gives carpooling a boost at USF 12/02/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 8, 2010 12:30pm]

© 2014 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...