Is there a clear front-runner in the world of ride-share matching websites? Our area, Binghamton NY, uses Broome-Tioga Greenride, but there is no way as of yet of integrating with users of other matching websites, such as Zimride in nearby Tompkins County.
511NY Rideshare is beginning to pilot their program upstate in Elmira and Steuben County, as of now it primarily serves the downstate area. This system could potentially connect users nationwide, which would increase it usefulness.
BroomeTioga GreenRide broometioga.greenride.com
You pose a timely question. On Friday (2/17) we were discussing it in a Tompkins Rideshare Consortium meeting. Our Zimride portal has nearly 10,000 users, the great majority are college students from three schools – Cornell Univ., Ithaca College & TC3 (community college).
Yes, there are quite a few rideshare services out there. In many respects, rideshare is the great white whale of mobility management. The potential market and benefits are so great, we exert every effort to harpoon it, only for rideshare to elude our grasp once again. (Ok, so I’m writing this in a book store café.)
In the five counties you mention, rideshare has a 10-12% modal split for commuting to work. That is the baseline to assess if rideshare programs are making progress. In the late 1970’s, ridesharing was up to 20+% modal split, without computer matches & iphones. So, why, other than students, is ridesharing generally unable to steadily gain mainstream acceptance? Clearly, people can save much money using car & van pools. With gas prices closing in on $4 (in Upstate NY), the saving money argument should be compelling & effective. But, by itself, it is not. (There are other LinkedIn groups to pose your question to: Real-Time Ridesharing and Re-Inventing Carpool Interest Group. Try them.)
We looked at what people want to use ridesharing for - commuting to work, one time trips (between cities), going to events (festivals, sports), taking children to and from school (schoolpool), ridesharing within a person's individual network, linking rideshare with carshare to enable students to serve as volunteer drivers, and organizing shared ride taxi groups to get a reduced group price. Don't expect one service to do it all.
I think any rideshare service needs to address three facets of decision-making – security, comfort and lastly, cost-savings. If you omit the first two, the pitch fails. Perception is reality. Security is really, really important. People need reassurance that they are not sharing rides with “strangers”, but acquaintances, at a minimum. Beyond personal security, people need reliable service. Being stranded, waiting for a driver, at a dark storefront, in the rain, is also a security issue. Comfort is also important. Cars are personal spaces and are often the extensions of the personality of the driver. People need to be comfortable with each other. Rideshare etiquette enters in here. Last, there’s money. Improving the money transfer between driver and riders is very useful.
So, let me get back to your original question. Yes, there are multiple ridesharing services. They are usually not restricted by location. (You could use the Zimride/Tompkins to arrange rides anywhere in the US.) So, look at a rideshare program's ability to improve their service features and marketing. Is a service constantly evolving to enable individuals to address their security, comfort and money issues? It’s too soon to answer “What is the best service?” Competition is good. I'm skeptical of the adaptability of one-size-fits-all approach of some rideshare platforms. But, they are better than nothing in the meantime.
As mobility managers, we need to look out for tools to improve ridesharing. Therefore, I’m interested in Avego’s “Shout” app for the iPhone. It provides vehicle & rider locations to facilitate pickups. Shout is a free app from iTunes store. It’s a tool any carpool could use.
There is much work before we land this whale.