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Ride-sharing propelled through social media

A ride-sharing network started by a UC Santa Barbara alum is improving the commute and cutting carbon emissions at 55 universities, including nine UC campuses and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

UC Santa Barbara alum Logan Green created the network – called Zimride in honor of Zimbabwe, the country that inspired its inception, while still a student at UC Santa Barbara. He also happened to be working at the campus transportation department. Green, having also served three years on the Santa Barbara city transit board, was well aware of some of the common grievances about public transportation.

But he hadn’t seen any of those pitfalls in Zimbabwe’s organic, user-driven system. There, on a trip in 2005, Green saw a public transportation system that worked. In a country with little infrastructure, a grassroots network of minibuses called “tro tros” traversed routes where people wanted to go, charged a nominal fee and moved at a good pace. Such large-scale ride sharing or use of share-taxis is common in many countries, even those with little infrastructure like the southern African nation of Zimbabwe.

Green wanted an online social network to jump-start Zimride. Mutual friends introduced Green to John Zimmer on the social media site Facebook. Zimmer was developing a business plan for a ride-sharing network at the same time, so a joint venture was only natural.

Zimride got its start as an application on Facebook, and received a $250,000 grant from the company to boot. In 2008, Zimride embarked with Zimmer’s alma mater Cornell being the first to deploy the software.

Universities pay Zimride $10,000 annually to administer and market the system to their students and staff. Zimride also is expanding into the corporate market, with clients such as Wal-Mart and Cigna.

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