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Frequently Asked Questions about Rural Carpool

How is Rural Carpool different from other online ride/transport/taxi services?

We are not a door-to-door taxi service, and don't want to be. We are a hyperlocalized online self-organizational tool for regional community transit. We're aimed at rural folks who often drive alone to the same larger towns or cities nearby, who can agree on a place to meet, to share a trip and its costs. The regional boundaries are usually a couple of counties, a valley, perhaps comprising 10,000 to 30,000 people at low population density. We help people self-organize the sharing of transit and costs.

Indeed, the system does not take money from the Rural Carpool members -- that transaction is between a Trip's Driver and their Passengers. We provide a recommended rate per kilometer (or per mile), and make both the connecting and the cost-sharing easy, convenient, and predictable. We expect all travelers -- driver included -- to share Trip costs. Nobody can try to make an income via Rural Carpool; one can only decrease one's travel costs. This system is designed to help enable a small region to organize its own transit, to save $$$ and CO2.

What do you mean by "Rural Carpool"?

Originally, we were "Rural Rideshare," because we actually meant: Sharing a Ride to Town, and Splitting the Costs. However, after explaining repeatedly, in every interview and Farmers Market and conversation, that we were NOT a rural version of Uber and Lyft, but rather a "rural carpool"... well, we accepted the inevitable.

This is how a rural region can have its own Carpool community, helping each other drive ourselves to town. Perhaps most important, this is not a way for anyone to make money. It's a way to save money and CO2, by splitting those trip costs between travelers.

What about privacy and safety?

It is a fine balance, between privacy and safety. Often they are in competition. We try to let every Member of a local community Rural Carpool Hub have individual control over what information they share, and with whom (see Preferences if you're logged into the Demo).

Rural Carpool does require some information: your email address, your cellphone number, your full name, and your locale and preferred destinations. But as you can see in the demo, we don't require all that information to be made public. You decide how to share your information -- only with Travelers on a specific Trip you're in, or with any regional Member, or only when you proactively add it.

If desired, we let Drivers specify their Passenger or Trip preferences, enabling self-organizing into (for example) women-only or men-only Trips. You can privately "favorite" folks you actively want to travel with, and can privately "filter out" Travelers individually.

We do our best to prevent hacker/harvester access to any Member info, and to discourage non-community members from trying to sign up, but can make no guarantees beyond "best efforts." Further, we are experimenting with a "vouching" system that we can apply if it becomes necessary.

In the end, it is the individual Members of the Carpool community who will self-regulate; the local Carpool Admin and the Carpool Advisory Board can respond to the community's will.

Why isn't it easier to find a trip from my wee hamlet to a tiny village and back?
Rural Carpool is optimized for helping folks coordinate shared Trips to places they're all going to, which ends up being towns large enough to support doctors, dentists, and businesses large and small. Day to day, very few people drive from any particular hamlet to another village, 50kms away. It's deeply unlikely that your trip would coincide with someone else's desired trip, who lived nearby. To avoid oversaturating the lists with Trips that few (if any) would ever join, we keep our focus on supporting shared Trips from smaller communities to the larger destinations in our region.

That said, you could find someone driving past your destination, who might be open to sharing part of the trip -- that's up to you.

What's the policy on masks?

Given the current status of Covid and our heightened recognition of the risks of proximity, the default policy is that a face mask should be worn by all Travelers. If any Traveler feels strongly that they must be mask-free, they should inform the others prior to the Trip, in the Trip Chat. Any Driver can require masks, and can reject any passenger who refuses; similarly, a Driver could specify a "mask free" Trip requirement, I suppose.

How do I see if it's available in my region?

Currently, we're just getting warmed up. We are in the alpha testing stage, with a "live demo" based on Michael's rural community in Nova Scotia as its geographic base. We hope that the Demo version will help local folks sign up to become a Member when the site goes Live, or sign up for more information or enquiries, as the first Hub rolls out.

If your region is ideal for a Carpool Hub project like this, and you know just the person who might organize it, send them an email with a link to the fully-functional Demo version, with explanatory sidebars and a testbed of 100+ members with several thousand Trips on record. This content lets you play around, and see how Rural Carpool works for different folks in a different parts of the region. More information will be available on the main website.

Is this a phone app?

Not yet, but it works on your cellphone's Web browser pretty well. Rural Carpool is currently optimized for web-and-email engagement. Each Trip has its own "Trip Chat" (through the website, which can be viewed on your phone), to be used for organizational planning, such as sharing cellphone numbers and contacts between Driver and the Passengers. This Chat is sent in the reminder email sent the day before the Trip itself. Currently, the additional cost of developing a true-blue "phone app" is not justified.

How do I pay for my Ride?

You don't pay RuralCarpool.com. Instead, you share the Trip's cost with the Driver, by paying the Driver your proportion of the suggested total cost of the Trip, currently assessed at 0.20 per kilometer. We display those costs and their splits on the Trip page. With one Passenger, those Trip costs are split 50/50 with the Driver. With two or three Passengers, it's split in thirds or fourths. Basically, the more Travelers, the cheaper it is per Traveler, for the Driver and for each Passenger. We do the calculating for you!

As a Driver, what do I get out of it?

You save at least half, perhaps two thirds, and even three-quarters of the cost of driving alone. In exchange, you may need to be a little flexible in your route and timing. The Driver has the final say on the travel and meet-up times (within reason), knowing that most Passengers could be Drivers if they needed. Please use the Trip Chat to coordinate these arrangements. Note: No Driver is required to take anybody along -- but please, work that out in the Trip Chat as well.

You also are significantly reducing the carbon costs of the Trip, by essentially saving the exhaust of the single-person trip your Passengers didn't take.

As a Passenger, what do I get out of it?

You save at least half, perhaps two thirds, and even three-quarters of the cost of driving yourself. In exchange, you may have to be flexible. The Driver has the final say on the travel times (within reason), knowing that most Passengers could be Drivers if they needed to be. We at Rural Carpool believe that coordination can be accomplished, especially if plans are made via the Chat, ahead of departure.

You also are significantly reducing the carbon costs of your travel, by essentially saving the exhaust of the car you didn't take.

As a business, what does Rural Carpool get out of it? Will you sell my data to the highest bidder?

If we are able to succeed, and our community embraces the site as a useful platform for saving $$$ and CO2 by sharing trips and costs, then there will be opportunities for sponsorships, advertisements, special events, and paid support. We have designed online Rural Carpool to be relatively inexpensive to maintain, and relatively easy to administrate, but there are certainly costs that must be recovered. Especially early on, our first goal is to see it succeed; our second goal is to see it continue to succeed; our third goal is to be sure that Rural Carpool can pay for itself to successfully expand.

I'm the founder of Rural Carpool, Michael Jensen. I'm 65. I want the Rural Carpool system to be financially sustainable, to pay fair salaries, and to be highly effective at saving people money and reducing carbon dioxide emissions. I don't need or want an IPO. I don't need or want gigantic wealth. I want to see this idea succeed, and succeed honourably. If I'm lucky enough to need to try, I try to will build a business model for Rural Carpool that is equitable, ethical, sustainable, and purposeful.

And no, I won't sell your data.

Why can't I see today's possible Trips, like for this afternoon?!?!

Rural Carpool made a couple of framing choices in its design, one of which was "rural drivers plan trips ahead." Rarely does one decide to travel far away, on a whim. Our systems probably should not facilitate whims, in terms of carbon emissions.

Rural trips of some distance require a little arranging, and last-minute arranging is usually the dumbest. For the kinds of rides that Rural Carpool can help arrange, at least 48 hours of potential planning time is required, by default.

And honestly, if you're in a hurry, or in dire need -- then go on and drive yourself, and plan earlier next time, to save some $$$ and CO2.

Note: if a particular local Hub wants to vote to shorten or lengthen that 48-hours-ahead time, the Hub Admin can change that gap's duration -- though we don't recommend it.

How big is the membership?

Each Region is different, so stats for your Rural Carpool Hub will be available to your Hub Admin, and to you. In general, we think that a membership of at least 100 allows a "tipping point" of utility, and that most of these folks will each end up sharing a Trip every week or two. 1,000 active members results in a whole lot of interesting possibilities and Trip opportunities.

More than 5,000 Hub Members is probably unwieldy, and if we get that many in a Region, we should have enough data to suggest how to optimally split the Hub's Membership into appropriate subregional Hubs optimal for local needs. Or, we'll implement even finer-grained filtering options for the Carpool platform. Let's hope we have to cross that bridge sometime in 2023!

What about commuters?

We recently integrated Commuting into the system, addressing the needs of rural-to-urban commuters. The needs of commuter travel are different from the "individual trip self-organization" model at the heart of Rural Carpool. Nobody wants to enter the same thing over & over. We have settled on a simplified, single-form entry process for the Driver, that results many individual-day Trips being created. That is, when Jane enters a M-F 9-5 commute to Truro, we create a single Trip time/description entry for each of that week's M, T, W, Th, and F. That way, Mary might join Jane on Tuesday, and Sam might join Jane on Wednesday, and co-commuter Abby might join Jane all of those days -- and big savings are had by all!
(See the Trip Type cheat sheet for further clarity.)

I have an electric car. Are the sharing prices different?

The arrangements between Driver and Riders are, as always, up to them. Rural Carpool can only make suggestions. In this case, we recommend you use the same suggested "cost per kilometer" model for dividing the Trip costs.

I don't have a car. What do I do?

There is no requirement for a car, but the system is optimized for a meeting of people with cars, that they park in a common public area. This is not a taxi service, not door-to-door. No Driver is required to accept any potential Passenger. That said, most people are happy to help, especially if it doesn't cost them anything but time. If, as a Driver, you have time, and you're feeling neighborly and are willing to pick up a neighbor down the road, then the system can help calculate the cost of the extra pick-up kilometers. As always, arrangements between Driver and Passengers are up to them, and should be discussed and resolved in the Trip Chat, ahead of time.

I have something I just need picked up. Can I have the Driver do that?

That is a choice only a Driver can make. Chances are good, if you pay the same portion of the Trip, your Driver might be able to help. That is currently not a special option that we have built into the system -- you would need to communicate directly with the Driver, either through Trip Chat or through email or phone (if such information has been shared) to work out the details. If we find this is a really desireable feature for our rural members, we can make it easier to make such a request within RRS.

What about kids?

Ultimately, this is a choice the Driver needs to make. Any Driver can say "no" to any Passenger request; the Driver is "in charge" of such matters. Some Drivers may not be willing to take kids, and the Passenger (and kid) should not take offense at this. Others tend to be delighted by children. We recommend that a full "share rate" is paid by the parent for the kid, as well as him/herself (since a seat is a seat), and have full disclosure in the Trip Chat (i.e. "my nine-year-old will be with me. She's a little chatterbox, btw.").

Who sits where?

Unless otherwise arranged, we recommend that Rider A sits in the front passenger seat, Rider B sits behind the front passenger seat, and Rider C sits behind the Driver.

Copyright © 2022 mwmwm, inc. and Michael Jon Jensen