Our fair metropolis is served by a number of budget travel options (mostly buses), from the Fung Wah to Megabus. But even these easy, cheap options have their downside. Unless you live in Midtown (which, if you need a budget option in the first place, you presumably don’t), schlepping to Port Authority for an early morning bus is no one’s idea of a good time, and while they, sometimes, come with free wi-fi it’s still the bus and their routes are limited.
That’s all about to change. Zimride, the largest ridesharing company in the U.S., launches in New York and D.C. today, having already established a network of 360,000 users on college campuses and the West Coast. The company connects the long-distance carpool community throughout the five boroughs so that we can now plan an escape, in a car, on the cheap–potentially with a new pal. Think of it as mobile CouchSurfing, or the Fung Wah next door.
If you’re a driver, Zimride puts a little extra cash in your pocket by finding tag-alongs for trips you were planning to take anyway. Travelers can hook up with the carmates of their choice by setting up profiles and finding travelers whose destination, music tastes and interests jive with their own.
Zimride requires that users connect to Facebook, to build a reputation and establish an identity in the community. Last names are kept hidden on the site, as are phone numbers and email addresses (until a booking is accepted). Feedback and testimonials are encouraged, so that riders and drivers can see what other people are saying about drivers or riders they’ve traveled with in the past. And travelers can communicate via their Zimride inboxes, so that email accounts associated with Zimride and PayPal accounts are kept private.
To book a ride, check out the listings and click “Book it” on a trip that tickles your fancy. Follow the steps to confirm and submit payment via credit card. Once you cough up the cash your request will be sent to the driver, who has 24 hours to accept. If the driver doesn’t for any reason, you won’t be charged. And even if he or she does, Zimride holds the funds until 24 hours after the ride is scheduled to be complete, so that you can contact them and stop it from going through if there is any problem.
For tips on being an ideal Zimride passenger, or why BBQ makes more friends than salad, check out the Zimride blog.