Going My Way?

BU launches ride-sharing Web site for road travelers

By Vicky Waltz

rides_fullWhen Elyse Goldberg needed a ride to Connecticut for the Thanksgiving holidays, she avoided the bustle and expense of train and bus stations. Instead, she found a cheaper, quieter ride through the Boston University RideShare program, a new online ride-matching system that pairs up travelers heading in the same direction.

Created under the guidance of Richard Mendez, director of networked information services at the Office of Information Technology, RideShare has matched up more than 27 drivers and passengers since it launched on November 15. The Web site, powered by Google, provides interactive mapping for all routes and even finds matches for travelers who aren’t necessarily going to the same destination. “A driver who’s going to Annapolis could very easily drop off a rider in New York City, for instance,” Mendez says.

Goldberg (CAS’08) landed a ride with John Hall, a preceptor in the College of Communication, who was going to New Jersey with his family. “It worked out perfectly,” she says. “They just dropped me off in Hartford on their way to New Jersey.”

Users — both riders and drivers — post their final destination, day of departure, and day of return, and they may also indicate whether they prefer to travel with a male, a female, a smoker, or a nonsmoker. Once a request is posted, RideShare alerts the poster of all possible matches. Users will also have access to a personal My RideShare page, which lists past and present travel itineraries and matches that correspond to current posts.

Members of the BU Student Union approached Mendez last spring with the idea. “It made a lot of sense,” Mendez says. “Students have been posting ride requests on their residence hall bulletin boards for years, and this is a much more effective way of hooking up with drivers.”

It’s also safer than posting on a public forum, such as Craigslist, he adds. The RideShare program is only for members of the BU community; in order to access the site, users must log on with their BU login name and Kerberos password. The identity of anyone who posts is protected until a rider or driver contacts the poster through the Web site’s confidential contact application. All correspondence is sent via BU e-mail accounts.

“During Thanksgiving, there weren’t many postings for people traveling beyond New England or New York,” Mendez says. “But for the winter holidays, we’re seeing requests from people who are traveling as far as Florida, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.”

While driving isn’t as efficient as flying, carpooling is a good way to save money, cut down on carbon emissions, and make a long drive less boring, according to Mendez. In addition, it offers a great opportunity for community-building. “We’re matching up students, faculty, and staff members who would probably never meet otherwise,” he says. “It’s a good way to create dialogue that goes beyond the dorm and the classroom.”

Vicky Waltz can be reached at vwaltz@bu.edu.

This article first appeared in BU Today on December 10, 1007

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