British Columbia

Carpooling Spare Rides app launches in Vancouver

Don’t want to wait for the 99-B line to get to class? There’s an app for that. A group of UBC students has launched Spare Rides, an app that is 'taking carpooling into the 21st century.'

'We're about sharing your commute, not sharing a taxi,' says Spare Rides creator

Two creators of the Spare Ride app, Josh Andrews (left), and Kristoffer Vik Hansen (middle), carpool with driver Becca Koole Tuesday morning, one day after the app launched in Vancouver. (Josh Andrews)

Don't want to for the 99-B line to get to class? There's an app for that. A group of UBC graduates has launched Spare Rides, an app that is "taking carpooling into the 21st century."

Drivers and potential passengers enter their destination into the app and the program matches them up so drivers can pick passengers up along the way. The app, like Uber, displays real-time passenger and driver location.

But that's where the similarities end, says the CEO of Spare Rides, Kristoffer Vik Hansen.

"While Uber is a taxi service, we're more in the carpooling industry. We're about sharing your commute, not sharing a taxi," he said.

"It's one of the best ways to actually take cars off the road and that's the gap we're hoping to fill."

How much does it cost?

Spare Ride allows users to carpool easily with no planning involved. (Spare Ride)

A trip from the Commercial-Broadway SkyTrain station to UBC would cost a passenger about $7, more than twice as much as bus fare. But Vik Hansen says the benefit for passengers lies in the human interaction.

"You make your morning less boring which is probably the main reason you want to use this service."

Meanwhile, drivers earn $1 per trip plus 35 cents per kilometre for every passenger they pick up.

B.C.'s Passenger Transportation Regulations state carpool drivers do not need to purchase commercial insurance or a licence as long as they do not charge passengers more than the cost of the trip. Drivers are also not allowed to offer more than one return trip per day.

"Anyone charging more or if drivers wish to offer more than one return trip per day, they would be required to apply for a passenger transportation licence," said Transportation Minister Todd Stone in an emailed statement to CBC.

Where to use it

Spare Rides currently services the Broadway corridor.

It appears there is both ample supply and demand for an alternative commute to UBC.

The 99 B-line bus is at 150 per cent capacity from 6:00 am to 9:00 p.m. and there are over 40,000 single occupancy trips to UBC every day, according to Vik Hansen.

The Spare Ride app currently services the broadway corridor but CEO Kristoffer Vik Hansen says the team is hoping to expand the service area eventually. (Spare Ride)

For those who are hesitant about making the switch from bus to carpooling because of security concerns, Vik Hansen says the team is taking precautions. 

Drivers must sign up for the app using their Facebook accounts, which means there is a built-in verification system, he said.

Users' names, profile pictures, emails, and phone numbers will be stored in the Spare Rides system.

"We're taking it way further than most carpooling services we've seen," said Vik Hansen.  

To listen to the full interview, click the link labelled: Commute-sharing app launched by UBC grads.