For her frequent seven-hour jaunts from San Francisco to Los Angeles, Calif., Julianna Iran, 26, often drives with strangers. But no one is a roadside hitchhiker or an anonymous Craigslist responder. Each just needs a ride to Southern California. And Iran doesn’t want to pay for the whole tank of gas to get there.
Rather than drive alone, Iran lists her trips on Zimride, a website where individuals can find others already going to the same destination—and book a spot in someone’s car to get there. With Zimride’s just-launched D.C. to New York route, Washingtonians can take advantage of what the company promotes as “non-creepy hitchhiking.”
Zimride trips allow area residents to travel to New York City (and other places along the East Coast) for $50 or less. Which is cheaper, but not as quiet as a train. “Everyone is talkative and friendly,” says Lauren Vargas, a route builder at Zimride. “I’ve never had an awkward ride.”
Still, a look at hitchhiking opportunities between D.C. and New York for this weekend shows that a Zimride trip, at least for now, can be pricey. One person offers $30 a seat, another $50.
To use the West Coast-based service, drivers and passengers must sign in through Facebook; the transaction itself happens over Paypal. On Facebook, they can see the potential road trip mate and mutual friends as well as where he or she works and goes to school.
This step makes the service trustworthy, and eliminates any fear of sketchy passengers or drivers, says John Zimmer, Zimride co-founder and COO. “If somebody has a certain job or went to some school, it shows, on some level, that they’re a responsible person,” Iran says. “The Facebook process filters out who’d flake out on me and reassures me they’re less likely to do something inappropriate.”
Drivers can reject passengers for whatever reason, but then the payment doesn’t go through. Although there have been flaky drivers and passengers (Zimride refunds those), they haven’t had any problems with creepy or sketchy customers in their two years of service.
“We’d like to become a verb,” Zimmer says. “Just as you fly, or train, or bus, we want you to Zimride.”
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