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Posted on Tue, May 28, 2013 : 1:30 p.m.

AATA launches new ridesharing website for Ann Arbor area commuters

By Amy Biolchini

A new website that will help Ann Arbor area commuters create carpools and find ways to publicly share rides launched today.

The site — — is hosted by the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority and was developed in a partnership with the University of Michigan.

The concept is simple: Users create their own password-protected profile to list their employer, home address and details of their commute.


AATA has launched a new website to help commuters find carpool arrangements and to expand its VanRide program, which launched last year.

Jeffrey Smith | file photo

They can then connect with other site users to coordinate a carpool or a vanpool. The site is free to users, and is intended for people looking to share a ride to a Washtenaw County destination.

The average rideshare participant saves about $3,000 each year, according to a 2011 report from the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments.

The users determine their own rules for the carpool and set their own schedule. One-time trips can be requested through the site, like arranging a ride to a U-M football game, said Justin Fenwick, business transportation coordinator for AATA

The website was developed with input from U-M, which was previously subscribing to a web-hosted system -- GreenRide-- to arrange carpools between its employees, according to U-M officials. U-M donated its GreenRide database of users to AATA to initiate the creation of, Fenwick said.

U-M users are only seen by other U-M employees on, though they have the capability to make their profiles visible to the entire system.

Users can choose to carpool with people at their workplace or with anyone from the community, though an employer is not required for participation in the system.

“The site is 100 percent open to the community user,” Fenwick said.

Before the public launch, the site was opened to three select organizations: U-M, the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System and the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses to build the user base on the site.

About 6,200 commuters already are registered — the majority of which work at U-M, Fenwick said.

“The whole value of the database comes with the number of people registered in the system,” Fenwick said.

According to AATA, about 60,000 people commute to Washtenaw County every day from Southeast Michigan in addition to the tens of thousands that commute to work within the county.

TheRide already had been working with Zingerman’s and the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System to help them develop transportation programs for their employees, Fenwick said.

In addition to facilitating carpool connections, the new website also will help AATA expand its vanpool program.

AATA launched its VanRide system last year, which has been mainly in use by U-M, Fenwick said. Participation is tax-deductible.

The vanpool allows groups of five or more to rent a van from TheRide on a monthly basis. Riders pay a monthly fee ranging from $79 to $139 per person, while the driver of the van is not required to pay a fee.

One of the 35 vans in the pool have been in use by the VA Healthcare System -- which will soon be adding two more vans, Fenwick said.

Vanpools created by an employer are paid for by special monthly rates negotiated on a case-by-case basis, Fenwick said.

“We’re looking at how ( can grow our VanRide program,” Fenwick said. “In addition to the amount of time it takes to get a full group and get people approved to drive, we’ve been developing relationships over the past year to get more organizations … We’re hoping the website will make it a lot easier.”

Though there are no long-term goals for the number of users they’re aiming for in the system, Fenwick said the main objective is to keep the VanRide program in use and to gain more participating employers.

The website also offers a special portal for businesses and organizations to be able to track the data of their employees participating in alternative commutes.

Employers with a special portal also have the capability of messaging all their employees who have registered on the website.

To gain an employer portal, a business must pay an annual fee ranging from $500 to $2,000 based on the size of the company, Fenwick said.

U-M is the only organization to have such a portal, which was given to them in exchange for the database of its carpool users U-M transferred to AATA to develop, Fenwick said.

The public launch of is timed with the final week of getDowntown’s Commuter Challenge, which boasts record-breaking participation this year with more than 2,300 participants from 300 organizations logging alternative commutes to work this month.

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.



Tue, May 28, 2013 : 11:42 p.m.

I think it's great that such programs exist for specific communities, but I'm surprised why are we making our own system when sites like have community carpool sharing and is perfect for events. I hope that the system gets to be more generalized like those sites so everyone can take advantage of them.


Tue, May 28, 2013 : 9:49 p.m.

These types of stories should reall have the cost associated. I still have not been able to find out how much those bike fixit stations cost. Is this under the umbrella of AATA's $200,000 for its website (a budget item under the county-wide expansion attempt), or a completely different project with its own budget item? Is this an AATA project or getDowntown only? Is it swept under the carpet of "IT" for AATA? What has AATA committed to this in terms of one-time and ongoing dollars? These should be obvious questions with easy answers.

Amy Biolchini

Tue, May 28, 2013 : 7:11 p.m.

As I understand it, there's an opportunity for a degree of customization and privacy on the website. Your commuter profile can be set to only be visible to people you work with -- or it can be arranged to be open to the whole system.

Justin Fenwick

Tue, May 28, 2013 : 7:36 p.m.

Amy is correct. Also, to clarify further, the site shares no addresses, but instead general areas on a map, or contact information, except when contacting another user on the site the individual initiating the message will expose their email for use of arrangements and a replies. Finally, the site is on a certified secure server protecting user information from outside threats.

Nicholas Urfe

Tue, May 28, 2013 : 6:49 p.m.

You are welcome to ride with me. However, riding "shotgun" has obligations. First, don't even think of touching the radio or hvac controls. Second, if it appears that I am having difficulty stopping the car, please flip the floormat back and extend your feet through the hole to aid in the stop, ala Fred Flintstone braking. Third, you may not flip off or otherwise obscene gesture other vehicles. Obscene gestures are the sole prerogative of the driver.


Tue, May 28, 2013 : 6:35 p.m.

Fantastic ride sharing ideas! I hope this catches on, as ride sharing has potential for great benefit.


Tue, May 28, 2013 : 6:16 p.m.

This would have been a good story to couple with the one on the possibility of AAPS eliminating busing and utilizing AATA more. Not the end of the world or a gross injustice if a bus doesn't pick your kid up at the end of your driveway.


Tue, May 28, 2013 : 5:49 p.m.

This would be a great idea for all of SE Michigan, not just the center of the universe.

Justin Fenwick

Tue, May 28, 2013 : 9:24 p.m.

I'm glad you asked. TheRide previously partnered with SEMCOG on, which is a ride matching site for SE Michigan. This resource remains available for those with destinations elsewhere in SE Michigan.