PEI

HitchPlanet gives P.E.I. ridesharing new life

A West Coast company is hoping to make it easier — and cheaper — for Islanders looking to travel within the Maritimes or beyond.

Charlottetown woman sells rideshare company to B.C. company

Charlottetown's Nathalie Arsenault co-founded Maritime Rideshare five years ago when she lived in Cheticamp, Cape Breton. She recently sold the company to Vancouver-based HitchPlanet.

A West Coast company is hoping to make it easier — and cheaper — for Islanders looking to travel within the Maritimes or beyond.

HitchPlanet, a popular ridesharing company based in B.C., has acquired Maritime Rideshare and its 8,000 members.

That's great news for Nathalie Arsenault, who helped launch Maritime Rideshare during the Acadian Lines bus strike five years ago. She was living in Cheticamp, Cape Breton, and was looking for other ways to get to Charlottetown to visit family. She had experienced ridesharing services in other provinces, and decided to create her own searchable website to connect drivers with passengers.

"I started it as a social enterprise, to solve the transportation issue," she said. "But I had other personal commitments, a job, two kids, I just didn't have the time."

20,000 users on west coast

HitchPlanet, she said, has the infrastructure to take it to the next level. The company has 20,000 users in the Pacific Northwest, and hopes to eventually expand Canada wide.

Here's how it works:

Drivers and passengers register for free and connect on the HitchPlanet website. They arrange a price and pickup/dropoff location. In order to operate legally, drivers cannot make a profit, and therefore cannot charge more than 12 cents per kilometre. A credit card payment is made to HitchPlanet, which charges a 15 per cent booking fee to people asking for a ride.

Drivers are responsible for their own insurance.

We are a true ridesharing company. Uber is more like a ride hailing company.— HitchPlanet owner Flo Devellennes

And no, it's not like Uber, said HitchPlanet owner Flo Devellennes.

"We don't inject supply, we crowd source," he said. "We don't operate within the city, we focus on connecting people between cities."

But what if someone books a ride the driver turns out to be a creep?

Rating system for users

Devellennes said that has not been an issue. It is required that every member have a profile with a verified email and phone number. Some log in through Facebook. Customer service is offered seven days a week, he said, and there is also a rating system for drivers and passengers.

"So you can see if they've done it before, and how they are rated," he said. "We have customer service seven days, we have strict policies around speeding, drunk driving … they're banned if we're told about it. That's important to us."

Arsenault, meanwhile, has since moved back to Charlottetown so she won't be needing drives home anymore. She's happy her project is still filling a need in the Maritimes.

"HitchPlanet is a good fit," she said. "It was important to have someone who knew the service."

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story said HitchPlanet charges a three per cent booking fee. In fact, it charges a 15 per cent booking fee. The booking fee is charged to the people looking for the ride, not the driver.
    Apr 24, 2016 8:21 AM AT