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September 22, 2009

NuRide: The 'Secret' Way To A Cheaper Commute

I have the solution to highway congestion… a simple plan to cut traffic by 50%. All we have to do is get every SOV (single-occupancy-vehicle) driver to carry one additional passenger who’d otherwise be driving alone. But don’t call this “carpooling” or it’ll never succeed.

Carpooling evokes images of sharing long rides with co-workers who have bad breath, tell dirty jokes or, like me, smoke cigars. You know… the kind of people you avoid at work and surely wouldn’t want to commute with twice a day. Plus, if you’re in a carpool you’re tied down to someone else’s schedule. Sure, you save on gas money, but at what cost?

Well, what if you could carpool “on demand”… pick your passenger or driver… and get “frequent flyer points” as rewards? Now you can, and it’s called NuRide.

Launched in the Washington DC area, and available in Connecticut since 2005, NuRide uses the power of the Internet to match drivers with passengers using a variety of criteria.

Don’t want to share a ride with a smoker? No problem. Hate loud music? Again, you can chose. Only want to share a ride with a woman. Hey, it’s your call (and hers, guys). You just log onto www.NuRide.com to set up a free account, enter your preferences and start searching for a ride. And you don’t have to be a regular commuter to use NuRide. You can use its website just to find an occasional ride to the airport or a lift to the train station (a real plus if you’re on a five year waiting list for a parking permit).

There’s even a special promotion now that will get you a $25 TransitChek if you make two NuRide trips to your Metro-North station.

Members log in their trips, both with other NuRiders and by themselves on mass transit, by bike or walking. How cool is that… getting awards points just for your regular commute on Metro-North?

Each member of NuRide also gives ratings to their partners… did the driver pick you up on time, was the rider a slob, etc.? Bad ratings mean a lower chance of getting a ride from other members.

Best of all, the more you use NuRide, the more points you accumulate redeemable for merchandise, restaurant coupons and tickets to shows. As one member put it, “it’s almost like getting paid for commuting.”

So, what’s the catch? There is none. Merchants get new customers to sample them. Motorists share commuting costs. Congestion is cut on crowded highways.
Mind you, NuRide is subsidized by the CDOT and agencies like MetroPool and RideWorks which use tax dollars to promote car-pooling. But hey, it seems to be working.

NuRide has already attracted over 9,400 members and 1,200 companies in Connecticut. Stamford’s Pitney Bowes alone says their NuRide participation has cut over 4,000 car trips by employees in a year.

Overall, NuRide says their Connecticut members have logged more than a half-million trips saving 678,000 gallons of fuel and earning members more than $41,000 in rewards.

When gasoline prices soared last year NuRide saw a surge of interest just as mass transit saw new riders sampling that service. I’d hope that with gas prices now being down a bit, those who’ve tried NuRide haven’t slid back to their “SOV”s (single occupancy vehicles).

My only wish is that such a great program weren’t so hidden. Our state-funded ride-share agencies, Metropool and Rideworks, haven’t done a very good job of explaining NuRide and promoting the program to commuters, which is a shame.
For more information on joining NuRide just visit www.nuride.com and tell ‘em Jim sent you.

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