“. . . helps each of us save $$$ and CO2 --
what's not to like?”
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Rural Carpool is designed from the ground up to help citizens in a small rural region self-organize carpooling and cost-sharing for occasional trips to larger towns or special events.

Rural Carpool is not like a taxi, nor like Über or Lyft, nor like any bus or transit service -- it works where those systems are most challenged by low population density. Rural Carpool just helps us organize some kinds of travel, to decrease the cost to every traveler.

Our testbed region is the North Shore of Nova Scotia*, where we identified most of the small region's villages, towns, cities, and travel routes. Then we constructed 115 fake identities, and created thousands of past and future Trips within the region, to help you (and us!) get a sense of how Rural Carpool can work. People looked at the Demo, and found it compelling, signed up, and gave us great feedback.

We Launched on July 14(!), and currently are in our "shakedown cruise," working out confusing interface interactions, cleaning up processes, etc. Anyone can now Register, enter their Profile/Preferences, create a real Trip or two coming up, and Join a real Trip to save $$$ and CO2!

If you live in our rural region (Pugwash to New Glasgow to Truro and Halifax), then Register Now to become a North Shore Carpool Community member! Never any costs or obligations for membership.

If you do NOT already know our local rural region, then please familiarize yourself with the geography so you can understand where a Pretend Member is coming from, and might be wanting to go. If you're not from this area, please don't sign up during this period -- in a few weeks we'll have a different process in place for local Members and for interested visitors from afar, like you.

* The home region of Michael Jensen, the founder of Rural Carpool.

Mission Statement

To help rural travelers
in defined geographic regions
to be able to share their trips
to population centres,
save $$$ and CO2,
and strengthen their communities.

Rural Carpool's Current Status:

In the hubbub of Launch, I didn't update the Current Status! We are live, and working out the startup bugs -- including some very clumsy Registration processes, that have stopped some folks from finishing their Registration, or left them thinking that they were already Registered....

That said, folks are registering, and soon our engines will be firing on all cylinders!

Sign up now!

We're still well short of our goal of 100 signups; that said, we do have nearly 40 Member signups from the Tata/RJ/West Branch/Earltown centre of the North Shore region. That's almost enough to have reached the necessary threshhold for a viable hyperlocal community. My concern is that if new Members don't see possibly useful Trips, they'll be less likely to post their own upcoming Trips for sharing, and then the system will wither, because it can't grow to meet the needs of the Membership and the community.

This, combined with the need to test and retest the automated systems before we launch, is why I'm setting Thursday, July 14 as Launch Day. It's a couple of weeks later than I'd hoped, but it gives me a chance to promote, test, and polish further.

Sign up now!

We have concluded that the legal, regulatory, and cultural forces defining the term "RideShare" means that we had to change our site name. For example, specific legislation (2020's B222, the "Ridesharing Act," for Nova Scotia) use the term "ridesharing" to refer to for-profit, part-time or full-time online transportation services, like Lyft or Uber or other car-and-driver-renting services.

Our system, of course, is not that. Instead, it is carpooling, in which the driver and all travelers each pay their own proportion of the trip's cost. The vehicle's driver does not make a profit, and is not paid for transporting passengers. This distinction is important for many reasons.

So: Out with the old name (Rural RideShare), and in with the new (Rural Carpool)!

This change will also save SO much nuisance -- I almost always ended up explaining my project as "just like carpooling" -- then the light of understanding would come into folks' eyes.

It will require some hours of drudgery, updating all the references, etc. -- but it will certainly be worth it.

We are releasing the Beta version of the site today, and beginning actual promotion locally. Michael will be at the Tatamagouche Farmer's Market on Saturday, he'll be doing Facebook ads, putting up posters, and email outreach, all in hopes that he can get 100+ signups so we can go Live in June. That's the critical-mass number we believe will be sufficient to get started. If you're reading this, and you live in the North Shore of Nova Scotia, see the link above (and below) the YouTube box? Sign up!

Testers are giving great feedback (including LOTS of heavy enthusiasm), and we are listening. Michael underestimated the need for a viable phone experience, so we're integrating that into other revisions and improvements. Looks like mid- to late April, even May for the launch of the real Hub with real people. The next four to six weeks we will build toward that goal, which includes:

  • Viable phone experience on all primary screens
  • Sponsored Events and Sponsor Members
  • Request a Trip/Become the Driver
  • Enhanced Filtering
... and a lot of fine-tuning!

To launch, we think we need 100 members -- can we promote ourselves sufficiently within the community? We hope so.

Holy cow, what a wild six weeks! And now the Working Demo of a Rural RideShare Region is live!

The strategy of constructing a working community of 100+ fake Members, each with lives and hometowns and Trips of their own, has been great for testing and development. It's helped us improve the system, by allowing us to analyze "real fake-world data" as it were, both numerically and quiet experientially -- logging in as different users from different areas can spark the imagination quite effectively. There is no question that the Alpha system is the better for it.

For the next four weeks or so, we'll be having friends, family, and folks testing it, and giving us feedback to make it better (You can too!).

Our hope is to gather 100+ real regional Members by mid- to late March, so we can go live for real in the region!

Try the Working Demo now!

We are assembling all the armamentaria of a modern website, and are still a few cycles away from release. Thankfully, nobody is reading this, and so nobody's expectations have been disappointed! The Demo testbed that I've generated is fabulous, and we've been refining it ahead of release because we can have a "user experience" from a variety of perspectives. All the better upon release. We are hoping for a super fun New Year.

New data, new plans, new approach -- and a new timetable, all reset in October, and all affecting a cascade of consequences, mostly for the better. Additional features, a richer and more interactive demo, as well as life drivers on the part of several key folks, meant that we decided not to push a crash course to try to get the system operational by Xmas.

So now the target is to get the demo operational by end of December, and have people experimenting with the demo version in January, with 120 fake Members (with personal data like age, locale, bio, and car make/model uniquely constructed), 3000+ fake trips scheduled, nearly 1000 fake trips "taken," and much more, ready to be tested. Plus getting all the backoffice stuff like incorporation, promotional material, and the like ready to roll. On to 2023!

It's looking likely that the primary functions will have been coded within this next week, and the visual design integrated after that. At that point, we'll be at Alpha, able to use the "pretend to be a fake member" approach (112 unique fake users, each a Driver for one fake trip per week, and a shared Trip every couple of weeks) to allow function testing by an array of my friends, family, and compatriots.

After a couple more weeks of polishing, the Beta version (Nov 1?) of the demo should be able to be Public, and perhaps we can get a bunch of folks ready to sign up when it goes live, ideally on Nov 15....

Trying hard to be able to help with Xmas travel!

In conversation yesterday about RRS with my friend of 40+ years, he raised one of those head-slapping points ("why didn't I think of that earlier?") around a sense of safety and security when sharing Trips: provide for Women-only Trips.

And, by definition, Men-only trips. Computationally, if other Members have self-identified their gender status, it's simple -- a woman Driver, when creating an upcoming Trip into the RideShare Calendar, would simply select "Women Only" as a requirement for a Trip's potential Passengers; the system would simply not display Women-only Trips to Members who were self-identified as Men or non-gender-specified Members of Rural RideShare. The same is true for Men-only Trips. Sorry to stereotype, but many men would be glad to not have to worry about how tidy their car was, if Thursday's Trip was "Men-only." Of course the default, in Trip creation, should be open to all Riders. But giving a Driver that specific control is a no-brainer.

Every single woman I've asked about this Women-only option has instantly responded positively. This sucks as a symptom of society, and it was because of my lifetime of male privilege that I didn't design this in, from the first. I wasn't even requesting that data point, in signing up: I implicitly wanted to ignore gender.

Up till now I've tried to architect an inclusive system, of "informed anonymity," with fairly fine-grained user control of one's personal information, and one's personal preferences. I'd already designed in a "my favorite Travelers" list that every Member can keep privately, along with its "my least favorite Travelers" counterpoint list. But I missed that general amorphous state of fear women often feel in close quarters with male strangers, something that women don't feel in close quarters with women strangers.

So that's that: we'll build that in.

We've also had very interesting follow-on discussions (what about trans folk? what about gay men who'd prefer the safety of women-only? what about all the other -isms? what about structuring a system that unintentionally encourages the "Mars/Venus" split between men and women?).

In the end, the mission is to enable rural people to self-organize Trips, which includes letting Drivers set the constraints on any Trip they create. There are plenty of other preferences that might matter: a heavy smoker, heavy perfume, young children, pet hair, farm smells, constant talkers, etc. In fact, a "Mostly Silent Trip" request also seems potentially very attractive...

RRS's goal is to provide the infrastructure that lets people have a relaxing shared trip, by letting folks be in as much control as possible of their own data, and of their own Trip experience.

Refined plenty yesterday with my Director of Development. Database model restructured to accommodate the new refinements in the RideShare model. Those refinements came after working with early RRS prototypes, thinking through the implications, and redesigning.
Most important has been certain watchwords: simplicity, specificity, appropriateness, flexibility, certainty. The Mission needs to be kept up front. The key phrase in that mission statement is "self-organize." How does Rural RideShare connect people so they can self-organize the most effectively, with the least amount of complexity? I'm very pleased with our solutions. While by no means perfect, Rural RideShare nonetheless does a mighty fine job doing what it's intended to do. I can't wait to let people try it. We hope to have our Alpha RideShare Hub (for Phase I) operational for friendly testers by mid-October. We expect to refine and fine-tune the platform to then become the first Rural RideShare Hub, for release to the North Shore of Nova Scotia by mid-November -- hopefully in time for helping folks self-organize Christmas shopping in the larger population centres...!
I'm having a really great time with this project. Not only am I uniquely positioned to be doing it, I feel like it could make a difference in the world. Were this thing to take off, the CO2 savings and the wear-and-tear savings, not to mention the cost savings, could be huge. Saving one kilometer of travel saves 200g of CO2 -- 100 km is 20kg. So, if you RideShare two would-have-otherwise-driven passengers to a 100 km round trip, then we've prevented (100 x 20) x 2 = 40 kilograms of CO2 from joining the atmosphere. Add that up over multiple regions, with many trips shared every day, and the metric tonnes add up fast!

The iconography, graphics, typography, and colours are mostly visually coherent, at least. If, as I hope, Rural RideShare expands, I'll no doubt get a real graphic designer to make it better, but for now, my decades of work in publishing lets me at least not make stupid mistakes. Long ago I worked with an award-winnng book designer for several years, as his in-house typesetter. The parameters of good typographic design were drilled into me.
We are recognizing that a new database/codebase model would give us better flexibility, security, stability, and speed, especially as we design for scale (1,000+ Hubs eventually). That does not slow down the content development, the refining of visual elements, the metadata definitions, and the countless details that need to be done to make this a rounded-out platform.
Framework operational; now comes the code work (though not as much for me, this round).

PHP Code framework determined; some troubles getting all the parts working in synchrony. Plenty else for me to do: FAQs to write, mission statement to craft and hone, all the ancillary material that, in the "writing as a means of discovery" sense, needs to be written, to clarify the project's goals fully.

Devoted Web server up and running on a "green" hydro-powered server farm. Up till now we've been sharing documents with Google Docs, building on our local servers, designing with local files. Basic requirements documents, and requirements narratives, are increasingly in place. Now we can start getting down to the cycles of prototype/refinement that will help us understand the ways a Rural RideShare platform "feels" and works. I built all the earlier versions (in fact, my first prototype was back in 2012, built for a different mission), but now it's being rethought entirely, albeit from an educated perspective (I like to think).
-- Michael

In The News:

Pictou Advocate, June 22, 2023:
"Rural Carpool coming to the North Shore," by Jake Boudrot

Truro News/Saltwire, May 17, 2023:
"Developing a rural ride-share platform on the North Shore," by Richard MacKenzie

Rural Carpool Video Intro (77 secs)

Rural Carpool Status Update, July 29 Zoom

For those familiar with Rural Carpool, skip to time marker 12:38. (Michael recommends x1.25 or x1.5 speed!)

Rural Carpool Context Video
(8 min 14 secs)
(from when it was still called "Rural RideShare"):

Above: Video overview of Rural Carpool (formerly "Rural RideShare") (8:14), by founder Michael Jensen:
the rural context, a tour of the site itself, and a call to action, encouraging you to Sign Up for the July 14 Launch!

For more info: michael@ruralcarpool.com

Great shout-out from our MLA: