UMN launches rideshare program to help commuter students

The program allows students to communicate transportation options with other University of Minnesota students.

Theresa Mueller

University of Minnesota students have a new option for getting to class.

In an effort to increase transportation services and support sustainability around the University of Minnesota campus, an application that allows students to connect and rideshare with other students was introduced this fall. 

The Gopher RideShare program, which was launched this fall by the Parking and Transportation Services, aims to reduce car congestion, improve air quality, decrease wear and tear on the road and allow individuals to save money by exploring various transportation options.

The University already provides similar services because of high parking costs and limited spaces, while PTS further focuses on reducing congestion through accessible carpooling. 

“We had a gap here that we wanted to fill,” said Steve Sanders, alternative transportation manager for PTS.  

Transportation methods such as biking and walking aren’t always an option for commuters, resulting in more cars flocking to campus and congestion.

“You can always tell when classes start because parking becomes almost unavailable,” said Frank Douma, director of the State and Local Policy program with the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

Spaces devoted to parking lots and parking garages take away the opportunity for additional land uses, Douma said. 

Sanders said the majority of carpools on campus consist of people who already know each other, but Gopher RideShare eases the transition of meeting new people to share rides with.

“Getting people to carpool has always been a challenge,” Douma said. “Any way we can get over that initial reluctance to make it easier or cooler, more convenient, cheaper, is worth trying.”

As many faculty members are already active in carpools, Sanders said he hopes the program, which is available as an app, will encourage more student commuters to carpool. 

“Reaching out to students in a way that they can relate too and is easy to use, is going to help them with that,” Douma said. 

The program expands transportation opportunities beyond carpooling services. Users have the opportunity to find single rides, which Sanders said can help students who simply need a ride home during holiday breaks. 

Users can seek resources to help with biking, walking or transit on the app. For people new to the area, users can find “mentors” to assist with navigating the area. 

To ensure familiarity with campus-goers, Gopher RideShare requires users to login in with an x500 account. The application is free to download for Androids and iPhones, but costs of individual rides are up to the users to negotiate. 

To develop the program, PTS relied on the technical services of RideShark, which works to provide a platform for universities and businesses to promote sustainable travel options.

“It’s all about choice,” said RideShark President Sharon Lewinson. “We’re about mobility as a service.”

“[RideShark] facilitates organization for state universities to help encourage sustainable commuting,” Lewinson said. “We already have the land. We just need to decrease the means of transport.” 

As technology develops, Lewinson said ride-share programs have become more accessible and easier to use.

Sanders said ride-share services have become much more advanced since the days students used index cards to post on a ride-share board in Coffman Union.