U joins online car pool community

The University’s Zimride account has more than 900 users.

by Danielle Nordine

With the holidays coming up, many University of Minnesota students are looking for cheap, easy ways to get back to their hometowns. One new option now available is Zimride , a free social networking car pool Web site. The University established its own community on the site at the end of September, and currently about 930 University faculty, staff and students have signed up for the service. âÄúEverybody is trying to cut down on gas these days both for financial and environmental reasons,âÄù said Doug Leonard , a graduate student studying water resources management and member of Zimride. âÄúIt would be great if there was as much car pooling in the community as possible.âÄù Zimride, which launched less than a year ago and has about 300,000 members , is a university-based car pool system where universities can create their own communities. Once potential Zimride users create an account with the University, they can customize their profile with a photo, how often they need to ride or drive. It also has lists preferences such as driving speed, level of music and whether smoking is allowed in the car. Users can also link their Zimride profile to their Facebook page or Zipcar account, an hour-by-hour car rental service that is also available to University students. After members post when and where they are going, the site e-mails users with potential matches. âÄúThe heart of it is, so many of us are taking the same trips,âÄù said Tessa Petrich , vice president of marketing for Zimride. âÄúIt really leverages the sense of community and trust that already exists on a campus.âÄù Universities pay a yearly subscription fee to have a community on the site, Petrich said, and Zimride partners directly with universitiesâÄô parking and transportation services and helps with marketing to âÄúbuild the critical density of users to get rideshare services to work.âÄù Zimride contacted the University and let them know about their services and ran demonstrations, said Jacqueline Brudlos of Parking and Transportation Services. She said the University sent out an e-mail to students and staff and has run some advertisements promoting the site. âÄúIf youâÄôre looking for someone to carpool with, you can see their interests, pictures, and organizations,âÄù she said. âÄúItâÄôs not just giving a call to a strangerâÄôs number on a bulletin board.âÄù Despite the fact that so many University staff, faculty and students have signed up on the site, many say they havenâÄôt actually been able to use the service because of scheduling. âÄúI got the e-mail and was ambitious,âÄù said Brandon Burbach , a research assistant in immunology and member of Zimride. He said he went on the site to see how many people from his hometown were users, but ultimately he couldnâÄôt make it work around his schedule. âÄúMy schedule isnâÄôt always reliable, and I donâÄôt want to put someone else through that variability,âÄù Burbach said.