A myriad of ways for getting around have been introduced in D.C. in recent years.
There are those sturdy red bikes, part of the bike-sharing network Capital Bikeshare, which began three years ago and now has more than 1,800 bikes at some 250 stations. (It has expanded to Arlington, Alexandria and now to Montgomery County.)
There are Zipcars, a lot of them Mini Coopers, and tiny Car2go vehicles, both part of short-term car rental services, each of which have hundreds of cars in the area.
Even the crusty taxi industry is being overhauled following the entrance of the upstart Uber, an app-based service that allows users to reserve luxury black cars using their smart phones.
Now the next wave of urban transportation innovation is on the way, with services allowing people to rent each others’ cars, find seats for road trips and even recover lost wallets from cabs. Some of the new apps and concepts were on display at an event organized last week by Smart Growth America and the online magazine Elevation DC, and hosted by 1776, the start-up incubator on 15th Street NW. A sampling:
RelayRides lets users rent their own cars to others rather than let the vehicles sit idly in their driveways or garages. For all the driving we do, most cars are sitting somewhere parked 92 percent of the time, according to the company, and RelayRides tries to unlock the value of those cars for their owners by creating a way of renting them to strangers.
Those needing a car can log on and see a list of cars nearby, how long they are available and how much their owners are charging for them. Already some 1,600 vehicles have been posted on the site, including dozens in D.C. and the Maryland and Northern Virginia suburbs. A recent search in the Petworth neighborhood showed a 2007 Volkswagen Passat (available for $6 an hour or $30 per day), a 2008 Toyota Matrix and a Scion XB 2006.
The owners post details of their cars, for instance where they can be parked and whether they have bike racks. Sean L., owner of the Scion, calls it “the roomiest toaster-shaped car you’ll ever drive, and any passengers you have will undoubtedly comment on it.” RelayRides backs each reservation with a $1 million insurance policy and screens drivers for clean driving records.
RidePost is a way for drivers and people looking for a ride to connect. For drivers looking for someone to kick in some gas money or those in need of a ride, it’s an alternative to posting their pleas on Craiglist. It’s not car sharing, but ride sharing.
The site is designed for trips of at least 20 miles, either long commutes or road trips, mostly from one city to another. On a recent search of drivers leaving D.C. in coming days, there were only a few early adopters, offering rides from the District to Dulles, Charlottesville, Severna Park and San Francisco.
The San Francisco driver, however, was only charging $100 for the cross country trip and in the notes section advertised, “Good music, good people, good rest stops. Will reduce price per cookie offering.”
RideScout provides real-time data on an array of ride options, among them Capital Bikeshare, Car2Go and SideCar. It likens itself to Kayak or Hipmunk, sites that let people looking for flights search numerous airlines and ticket sellers in one place.
It’s an answer to what might be a very new problem. In some cities there are now so many options for people to get around using phone apps that they need to be aggregated in a separate app to figure out the easiest or best option.
Founded by two former Army officers, RideScout began in D.C. last month, choosing the District “due to its high number of young professionals who are eager to adopt new transportation technologies as well as the proximity to lawmakers and people from all over the U.S. and around the world.”
“Our goal is to replicate the flexibility and reliability of driving one’s own car,” said Joseph Kopser, chief executive and co-founder.
HitchRides is a start-up taxi dispatch and credit card processing app. It puts devices on the back of headrests in taxi cabs that will allow drivers to connect with riders through their phones as well as process credit card payments, something many District cabbies have resisted for years but is now being required.
About 1,000 cabs have signed up so far. “This is a huge, huge change for cabs in the system,” said chief executive David H. Miller.
Based in the District and only operating here so far, HitchRides also aims to solve an age-old problem for the forgetful (or drunk) taxi riders: a way to recover lost items.
“If somebody calls me and says ‘Hey, I took a cab last night from here to there at this time,’ I can go in the computer and help them find things they’ve left in cabs,” Miller said. So far, Miller said, he’s returned items including wallets, a suitcase and a tailored pair of pants.
“It’s pretty exciting when you are able to help people recover their stuff,” he said.
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