Rising cost of gas fuels social media

Carpool (Cheryl Steiger via Flickr)The advantages of ridesharing are unmistakable. By sharing a ride, you can cut your commuting and travel costs. You are able to save time using the coveted high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes. And let’s not forget the environmental benefits of reducing emissions.

Ridesharing is an intriguing concept – but many ridesharing projects have failed because of low usage. One of the main reasons these projects have failed is that people are cautious about riding in a car with strangers. Frequently, it was also a time consuming process of getting lists, attempting to contact potential drivers with no certainty that a match would be made.

In comes social media addressing many of the concerns which inhibited people from using earlier systems. New online social carpool tools are making it easier and perhaps safer to share travel and expenses. Social network profiles are helping to ease the fear of sharing cars with strangers. New technologies have created flexible tools with large user base that are extending the reach of these systems. Some are even offering incentives to leave our cars behind. With both the rising costs of gas and the proliferation of social media, perhaps ridesharing programs have more then a fighting chance.

Here are some of these innovative tools:
PickupPal is a global service allowing passengers and drivers to choose one another based on user profiles and feedback ratings from previous trips.

Carpool, a facebook application created by the carpool community Zimride, allows you to find friends going in the same direction.

NuRide offers rewards to carpoolers from local and national sponsors hoping to generate reductions in driving and emissions.

GoLoco vows to evolve your social community into your very own public transportation network by putting your cars, friends, colleagues trips, and expenses together in one place.

Erideshare.com is a popular site with a large user base currently showing close to 18,000,000 local commuter listings and over 6,000 cross country listings.

Commuting is getting more expensive (calculate your commuting costs here). And by sharing a ride with just one person, you can save time, cut costs and reduce air pollution. Still, the question remains as to whether or not a social networking component is really enough to ease one’s fears about sharing a car with a stranger. I guess we’ll have to wait and see if these social ridesharing tools will change the way we travel.