Much attention is being paid to ride-sharing in the city, but what about longer trips?
Since 2010, HitchWhistler has matched drivers with passengers seeking rides up and down the Sea to Sky Highway. This week, the Vancouver startup announced that it's changing its name to HitchPlanet and expanding to 60 destinations, including Seattle, Portland, and Kelowna.
Trips arranged through HitchPlanet must cover a minimum distance of 50 kilometres. The platform already has 10,000 users, who have organized 8,000 trips in four years, from its HitchWhistler days.
“Our biggest challenge was ensuring people don’t cancel last minute on trips and leave the driver with empty seats, like on Craiglist or Kijiji. To overcome this, our online booking system has hitchers pay contributions to drivers before a trip,” HitchPlanet founder Flo Devellennes stated in a news release this week. “This creates a smooth experience, fills more seats and makes the service more reliable for both drivers and hitchers.”
HitchPlanet has partnered with Modo, the local car-sharing co-op, allowing drivers who don't own a vehicle to ride-share with HitchPlanet passengers.
“With people’s habits moving from owning to sharing, we are using the sharing economy to crowdsource transportation,” Devellennes also said in the release. “Our objectives are to help keep cars off the road and reduce our impact on the environment by building a sustainable business that fosters community.”
In a November 2014 blog post, Devellennes differentiates his platform from Uber, the headline-grabbing tech startup that competes with taxi companies in cities around the world. He notes HitchPlanet is "not a commercial service" and its drivers "cover costs of running their car" rather earning a profit from rides.
"Hitch helps fill seats in cars that would otherwise be empty," Devellennes wrote in the post. "Uber puts cars on the road to drive people around."