Using Online Social Sites To Boost Carpooling The high price of gasoline is fueling a new fleet of social network startups in ridesharing. They're trying to leverage social networks and the ease of technology to make it easier for people to carpool. But some analysts say it will take more than $4-a-gallon gas to get social network carpools firing on all cylinders.
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Using Online Social Sites To Boost Carpooling

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Using Online Social Sites To Boost Carpooling

Using Online Social Sites To Boost Carpooling

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If you want to regain some of the money you've blown on the stock market, you may start by carpooling. Internet entrepreneurs see an opportunity in the high price of gas. Several new Web startups are using online social networking to help people share rides. NPR's Curt Nickisch has more.

CURT NICKISCH: Every weekday in Boston, Anita Horn does what millions of Americans do. She gets behind the wheel and she drives to work.

Ms. ANITA HORN (Commuter): Typically, I'm trying to get in about 9:00 o'clock and trying to leave about 5:00 o'clock, which is rush hour.

NICKISCH: Another day, another drive, always alone. Lately, it's gotten to be more of a drag thanks to gas prices. Horn also feels bad about the carbon dioxide her sedan is pushing out of its tailpipe. She'd really rather carpool and split the impact of both.

Ms. HORN: That's a big jump, just right there. Taking one person and having one person in your car and having to deal with one other person's schedule is really not that bad.

NICKISCH: So Horn signed up on a Web site looking for someone to share her commute. There have always been online bulletin boards, but now and other new startups with names like eRideShare are leveraging the latest Internet technologies to make even the smallest carpool connections.

Ms. ROBIN CHASE (CEO, We can be thinking about our travel in more clever and serendipitous ways.

NICKISCH: That's Robin Chase. She founded GoLoco.

Ms. CHASE: Think when you go to the grocery store, you bump into your neighbor, you think, how fun, how great. You know, you're doing a little bit of gossip. So surprising to see you here. When in fact that kind of serendipity could be happening not by serendipity but by plan.

NICKISCH: Here's how it works. Say you're a driver. You post online where you're heading and when. You also give details like what you listen to in the car and what you want for reimbursement. Riders go online and check out an interactive map. If they want to join your route, you get an e-mail. Or they can place their own posting looking for a ride. Afterwards, each person can rate the other, helping other users get a better idea of what to expect. If you ask for money - some people don't - the rider pays through an online account.

CEO Robin Chase says drivers are cool with the 10 percent commission GoLoco charges, because overall this service can really save them.

Ms. CHASE: The total car cost, not just the gas cost, it really realigns when and why you're willing to drive.

NICKISCH: But not necessarily with whom yet. Rachel Hoppy is with IDC Research, and she's an expert on social networks.

Ms. RACHEL HOPPY (IDC Research): They succeed best with a passionate audience. People aren't passionate about gas.

NICKISCH: At least not enough, she says, to sign up for a new service in droves to really get online ridesharing firing on all cylinders.

Ms. HOPPY: There is so much complexity in routes that you have to have a huge group of passionate people to really satisfy all the different demands that are out there.

NICKISCH: And even then there will inevitably be these same old carpool hassles when someone flakes or has a last minute emergency and can't go. But the higher the price of gas climbs, the more people will be willing to put up with the occasional problem. These new Web sites make it easier for those people to find each other and share a ride.

Curt Nickisch, NPR News, Boston.

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