College students seeking rides home for the holidays have a new online alternative to carpooling with a stranger, thanks to a Facebook application launched by a UA student and an alumnus.
Until recently, many students looking to hitch a ride out of town relied on services such as Craigslist.org, which boasts the largest online carpooling network, said Matt Van Horn, class of 2006.
Now, students looking to catch rides via carpools can do so through a Carpool application on Facebook developed by Van Horn and Jonathan Thomas, a psychology senior.
More than 40 students used the service over Thanksgiving in an effort to get home easily and more cost-effectively, Van Horn said.
Mike Biegelman, a microbiology senior, offered a ride from the UA to Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix using the application.
""The experience was great,"" Biegelman said. ""I chose the person that best fit the time that I was leaving and also the destinations where I was going.""
Carpool users can also post offers or requests for rides and then view the profiles of those people before deciding to climb into the car, Van Horn said.
""We like to think of ourselves as one of the first useful Facebook applications,"" Van Horn said.
The idea originated after Logan Green, a University of California, Santa Barbara graduate and Van Horn's best friend from high school, launched a ride-sharing Web site called Zimride.
""I was finding some rides on Craigslist sometimes,"" Green said, ""and I was tired of not knowing who I was going to get into the
Van Horn adapted the Zimride system into Carpool, and Thomas developed a UA-specific network at the beginning of the fall semester.
Since then, Thomas and a team of four other people have worked to cultivate the application.
""For me, it was more the environmental factor that played into it,"" Thomas said. ""On any given weekend, people are going all over the place. I'm seeing kids with nobody in their car, just driving in SUVs and stuff.""
Carpool utilizes Google Maps to calculate mileage, which is then converted to pounds of carbon dioxide saved by sharing a ride, Thomas said.
Both Residence Life and ECOalition, a UA organization focused on ecologically sound and environment-friendly practices, have endorsed the service.
One of Carpool's main benefits, Van Horn said, is the user's ability to evaluate potential ride-sharers before jumping into the car with them.
""It's the added level of security, by being able to look on someone's Facebook and see if they're a normal-looking person in terms of if they have lots of pictures, lots of friends - tell if they're active in clubs on campus or whatever else, and try and make an educated decision,"" he said.
""I wasn't really too reticent,"" said Biegelman, describing his first experience with Carpool. ""I figure if they're willing to put their name out there and all their information from Facebook, they're probably a pretty trusting person.""
Beyond the enhanced safety of Carpool, Green touts the application's simplicity and convenience.
""It's actually surprisingly easy to find a ride,"" said Green, who has secured four rides through the service.
When a user posts a request, the message is broadcast to all of their Facebook friends, Thomas said.
Carpool also extends the online social network to the real world.
""It's totally cool,"" Green said. ""You meet someone new and you get to kick it with them in the car. It makes the time pass a lot faster.""
Currently, about 25,000 people nationally have added the application, Thomas said. Of those, 3,000 are sharing rides and 450 are active users from the UA.
An online demonstration of Carpool is available without a Facebook account at www.zimride.com.
""If people are driving and they're willing to have people carpool with them, then I think this application is a great way to save some gas and make some new friends,"" Biegelman said.
25,000:people nationally have added
3,000:of the 25,000 are sharing rides
450:active users from the UA
40+:students used the service over Thanksgiving