Zimride picks up SMC

Hundreds of empty parking spaces, safer roads for bicyclists, and money towards textbooks instead of gas. That is the vision that Harrison Wills, newly elected Associated Students President, had when he decided to propose a partnership between Santa Monica College and Zimride, the second community college in California to do so. Wills, as the current President of the Eco-Action Club, has been going to board meetings for months in order to get his brainchild venture off the ground. The value of the deal, which involves a three-year contract with Zimride, is $30 thousand from A.S. funds. "I was told by several people it wouldn't happen," said Wills.

Zimride is a social network created to help people find carpools in their community. By connecting to Facebook,  users can find the carpool mate that suits them best. Users also are given access to other user's profiles, and preferences such as whether they allow smoking, what kind of music they listen to, and how much gas money they ask for.

In its first three days, SMC's Zimride network managed to gather a little over 150 sign-ups. "I want a thousand students, minimum, on Zimride," said Wills. "It's a bold goal, but I want to do it."

By Saturday, the number of student sign-ups had risen to almost 200, possibly due to Wills promoting the rideshare network along with other Earth Week activities last week. "A lot of people are interested, unlike when we're campaigning for politics," said newly elected Student Trustee Joshua Scuteri,

Wills plans to further promote Zimride by reaching out to professors, and requesting they either mention Zimride to their students, or post flyers in their classrooms. Beyond this, Wills and Eco-Action intend to increase their efforts through grassroots activism and word of mouth.

The social network has not been without some criticism, however. Some initial concerns SMC had against Zimride considered the accountability of riders. To curb fears, the program claims to only allow students with an @student.smc.edu email address. President of Club Grow, Johnny Torres, said, "it's only students who can sign on, so there's some level of security. I don't want to be riding with a stranger."

If the program succeeds, Wills is planning on using it as a precursor for other sustainability programs on the campus, including partnerships with local organic farms and gardens. "Even if only fifty people use it, it's a success, because that's fifty more parking spaces," said Wills.

Zimride has networks at universities and colleges such as UCLA, USC, University of Michigan, and Dartmouth, among others. On Monday, one full week after its launch, SMC's Zimride network had signed up 553 users, with 287 active posts, and an average of 16 matches per posting.