British Columbia

Carpooling Spare Rides app expands to serve all of Metro Vancouver

A ride-sharing app that matches drivers and riders commuting in a similar direction has expanded from serving the Broadway corridor to all of Metro Vancouver.

App allows a rider to commute with a driver from Burnaby to Surrey for about $6

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)

A ride-sharing app that matches drivers and riders commuting in a similar direction has now expanded its service to all of Metro Vancouver.

Developed by graduates of UBC, Spare Rides launched in February to help drivers and riders carpool along the busy Broadway corridor in Vancouver.

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.

Though the app bears some similarities to Uber — it also displays real-time passenger and driver locations — CEO and co-founder Kristoffer Vik Hansen said Spare Rides has a different purpose. 

Meant for carpooling

"Uber is revolutionizing the taxi industry, we're revolutionizing the carpooling industry and the commuting ... industry," Vik Hansen said.

"This is meant for going to work and home from work and it's really just a more affordable way. Very few of us take a taxi to go to work, and that's really why most people won't take an Uber to go to work."

Vik Hansen said the decision to expand the service came because many of their 1,000 or so users requested the app serve more areas in the Lower Mainland.

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

Low cost

The app only allows drivers to carry one rider at a time, and the cost the rider pays is based on what the developers have determined would be the actual cost of driving to that destination.

When the service was operating along the Broadway corridor, the charge for the rider was a $1.50 base fee and $0.50 per kilometre. With this week's expansion, the passenger now pays $0.50 per kilometre for the first 10 kilometres, and then $0.25 per kilometre after that.

Vik Hansen said the cost for a trip from Burnaby to Vancouver would be around $6. In comparison, a two-zone trip from Burnaby to Vancouver on the SkyTrain would be $4.

Abiding by regulations

The team from Spare Rides previously met with the Passenger Transportation Board and have been allowed to operate because they do so as a carpool service.

B.C.'s Passenger Transportation Regulations state carpool drivers do not need to purchase commercial insurance or a licence as long as they don't 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," Transportation Minister Todd Stone previously told CBC News in an emailed statement.

Driver/rider praises app

UBC employee Andrea Busse started using the app shortly after it was released in February.

"I had been taking the bus to get to work, but it's less than ideal. It's always full ... and it takes a long time to get there. So I thought I should just drive, and pick up some of the people that are waiting at the bus stop as the bus zips right past them," she said, adding that the app helped connect her with people she could transport.

"I've driven a few times, and I've been a passenger a few times. It's easy and it's fun, because you get to meet people ... you get some good conversation going."

Vik Hansen said some people have even tried to use the app in New York and as far away as Prague, although drivers and riders weren't matched because the app doesn't serve there — yet.

"We are definitely looking at a couple of domestic and international markets that we could expand to."