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and then back home again.”
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How to Start Up a Local Carpool Hub with RuralCarpool.com

Rural Carpool's Regional Hubs are not constructed automatically or algorithmically. Instead, each Hub is crafted by members of a geographic community, usually led by someone who is willing to lead.

If you're interested in making a Hub happen, here is how we recommend that you proceed:

  1.  Think.
  2.  List.
  3.  Enlist.
  4.  Plan.
  5.  Prepare & Publish.
  6.  Promote.
  7.  Unleash.

This is not a minor undertaking, although it ends up not being a huge amount of actual effort. It can take a lot of time or a little time, depending on who you are, how you do it, for whom and with whom you're doing it.

The "demo" site (start here if you have not already) gives you a sense of a workable region, but your sense of your community and its needs is the "special sauce" that you bring.

The benefits are both incalculable, and quite calculable.

1: Think.

The first decision is what the appropriate "geographic region" is for your Hub. Take a look at some maps, at the state/province level and at the county level, do some Google Mapping, and imagine traffic flows from various perimeters. Envision what kinds of trips get made in that area and how those trips might be shared.

There is no magically correct dimension or even collective population size. Trips of more than thirty minutes each way is probably the sweet spot to target. A base Rural population of 10-20,000 seems about right, to ensure a few hundred plus Members.

Are there main roads that form a natural "funnel" toward a metro area? Are there a high proportion of Villages versus Towns, or is it mostly Hamlets? Do folks in your rural area routinely drive to a mid-sized town that's on the way to a big metro area? Is there a Wal-Mart-like superstore that everyone has to shop at, since local shops have closed up?

Are there already communities that might be interested, comprised of folks who frequently travel the same roads, or arrive at the same destination? Are there events (church, community gatherings, school, sports, entertainment, etc.) that are more frequent in certain locales/destinations?

Also, don't stress out about this geographic region. It's a first rough draft, at this point, and will likely be refined later.

2: List.

Using a spreadsheet or pen and paper, produce the following lists:

  • The names of all Towns, Villages, and Hamlets in your region -- those under 800 population, with few amenities.
  • The names of all Towns between 800 and 10,000
  • The names of Big Towns, Cities, and Metro areas (see this overview)
  • The names of local/regional businesses, organizations, or offices who might be interested in sponsoring or supporting Rural Transit via the Hub.
  • The names of community groups in the region who might be interested in promoting the local economy, the local community, and/or the environment.

You may have mentally adjusted the size of the region, based on the above lists -- which is as it should be.

3: Enlist.

We intentionally left off the above "list of Lists" the most personal one:

  • The names of locals you know who would instantly be interested, and might be able to help.

You will need to enlist an Advisory Board, comprised of five to seven people from across the region. This Advisory Board may end up becoming extremely important, or just be a useful networking group, or merely a bit of protection for you, regarding controversial decisions: "Our Board concluded that..."

Eventually, other Members will cycle onto the Advisory Board, but for now the Board needs to be appointed, by you. We recommend a diverse and inclusive Board if possible, both socially and geographically. Appoint people with strong networks, and a clear perspective on their microcommunity's needs.

This may also be a good time to contact possible local supporting sponsors, from across the region, to let them know about the upcoming development. It is also a good idea to reach out to existing county and provincial/state rural transit programs, if any exist, to make it clear that Rural Carpool will be serving a different and complementary need -- and find out how to best work with them when possible.

4: Plan.

Over Zoom, or Skype, or in a community hall or church basement, have a couple of meetings with your Advisory Board, to talk through strategy, specifics, and a schedule for Promoting and Unleashing your Regional Carpool Hub. You will already have shared with them the Demo Carpool link; we expect to have a lot of supporting material, and hope you will share with the Carpool community any useful suggestions. Michael would join at least one of these meetings (or more, if it's useful) -- but you and your Board know the region and the culture best.

If you and your Board are super-well-connected and can easily put together a list of a few hundred people to invite to try out the tailored Demo Carpool (similar to the working Demo but with your region, based on data you've supplied), then you may be able to plan for a short timeframe, prior to Unleashing. Otherwise, you may need more time for Promotion, prior to the Unleashing.

5: Prepare & Publish.

Once ready, work with Michael @ ruralCarpool.com. We will have prepared the database and your admin user, and given you instructions on how to enter the details of your regional Hub. This will include entering those named places (see "List," above), generating and specifying a bunch of details including a Map graphic, geographic preferences, and other elements of the Hub, and preparing some descriptive copy.

Once this has been completed, all you need are Drivers and Riders!

6: Promote.

Especially if you have a known date (first of a month, etc.), then promote it as you can. Send out emails, put up posters and brochures (provided to you by Rural Carpool), invite them to explore the Demo (which will help folks sign up ahead of release). You might provide a couple of Webinars overviewing the system, all inviting people to sign up so they'll be ready on Release Day. Encourage posting on social media. Submit press releases, where appropriate. Ideally you'll soon have 100 members ready to enter a couple of Trips they have planned in the next couple of weeks.

7: Unleash!

At the appointed hour, we will throw a (virtual) switch, and people can begin to enter Trips they plan to take to the larger locales in the upcoming few weeks, or decide to join others' Trips to share costs, or refine their privacy policy and polish their profiles. They'll start getting their Wednesday Carpool email, listing trips tailored to each member's Destinations.

If you're able, try to capture comments and responses from users, send out more press releases, and use the Unleashing as its own promotion for more Members. The more Members, the more likely RideSharing can take place, the more $$$ and CO2 is saved!

RuralCarpool.com selfishly wants you to get to far more than 100 Members (because that's when the system-sustaining subscription fees start to kick in). But beyond that, we don't much care if it's 100 Members or 1,000 -- we just want to see rural Travelers making use of the Rural Carpool system.

We think that Rural Carpool could become something pretty special. We hope you can help make it so!

Copyright © 2022 mwmwm, inc. and Michael Jon Jensen