SmartRide to help commute between I.V. and SBCC

Oona O'Toole, Staff Writer

SmartRide.org, a “real-time” ride sharing initiative, launched at City College to make the commute between Isla Vista and Santa Barbara more efficient.

The pilot project will run through June 2013 and 370 people have signed up so far. The program pays drivers $3 per trip and is currently free for riders but will start charging them at the end of the pilot project.

“Carpooling is the easiest way to double your gas mileage,” said Michael Chiacos, community environmental council transportation manager.

SmartRide is one of the first projects of its kind that allows students to find carpools in the moment. The smartphone application “Avego” allows participants to find others heading in the same direction and helps connect drivers and riders. If the pilot project is successful, Traffic Solutions will make the program available throughout Santa Barbara County.

By using transportation systems that have already been established, commuters can make travel more effective. Plus, fewer cars with single passengers on the freeway reduces smog emissions and traffic.

SmartRide.org wants to “use existing transportation more efficiently… and see if [it] can change people’s behavior,” said Chiacos.

The popular bus route 15X, between City College and Isla Vista, is often impacted and causes riders to be rejected. SmartRide hopes to alleviate some of the impact on this Metropolitan Transit District route.

“More people SmartRiding equals less people getting turned away at the bus,” said Chiacos.

Other traffic issues experienced by City College students can be resolved by utilizing SmartRide. Parking is often a hassle for many students but SmartRiding members can use the carpool spaces on campus and make the search for parking and the walk to class quicker.

Assistant professor for the biological sciences department, Adam Green said, “Anything that is going to make decreasing the use of fossil fuels possible is a good initiative to partake in.”

The program’s goal now is to convert people who have signed up for the app into actually using it. An easy way to get started is by scheduling rides through “My Trips” so riders and drivers can meet up easily. For those feeling nervous about safety, Avego offers a rating system and gender matching to make trips comfortable for riders and drivers.

Currently, the program is raffling off an iPad Mini, or gift certificate to Samy’s Camera or Bici Centro every month to people actively using the application. Every time a successful trip is completed, the driver and riders are entered into the raffle. These prizes will most likely last through the semester until funds for the incentives run out.

Recently, City College student Lauren Mok, 19, won an iPad Mini after completing four trips and having her name entered into the raffle four times.

SmartRide.org is trying to expand to having a route between Ventura and Santa Barbara beginning over the summer.