Cutting Emissions by Sharing Rides with eRideShare’s Steve Schoeffler

August 23, 2013

JOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome back to Green is Good, and we’re so excited to have on the phone with us today Steve Schoeffler. He’s the founder and CEO of eRideShare.com. Welcome to Green is Good. STEVE SCHOEFFLER: Thanks very much. It’s great to be here. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Hey, Steve, talk a little bit about before we get talking about eRideShare, what led up to this? Talk a little bit about your journey. When you were a kid, did you dream about doing something like this or is this something you just thought of a month ago? Talk a little bit about your personal journey leading up to this. STEVE SCHOEFFLER: Well, I’ve been interested in computers for a long time. My father worked at Dell and I had access to computers from a young age and I was really intrigued with the power of programming to create things that would repeat when people used them and so I don’t have a computer science background but I’ve programmed all my life essentially. I’ve done a lot of different kinds of business over the years. I’ve lived in Japan for three-and-a-half years and when the Internet came along, I was really interested in the power of the Internet to connect people. JOHN SHEGERIAN: And, when did you dream this up? Was it last month? Was it two years ago you were just watching something on TV or how did you think of eRideShare? STEVE SCHOEFFLER: Well, in 1999 the Internet was pretty much busting out all over and I thought that carpooling would be a natural use of the power of the Internet to connect people so I put it up and nobody else really was interested in carpooling at the time, at least not using the website like this so I pretty much had the space to myself and it grew slowly but over time, it developed a really large community. JOHN SHEGERIAN: You launched this in 1999? STEVE SCHOEFFLER: Mmhmm. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Good for you. So, what are the main features of this? And, for our listeners out there, please go a long and follow because I’m on the website now and it’s fascinating, the letter E, RideShare.com, eRideShare.com. What are the main features of your service? STEVE SCHOEFFLER: So, there’s a section for commuters. If you want to get to work every day or twice a week, anytime that you’re going back and forth in the same day, that’s the commuter section. There’s cross-country travel, so if somebody wanted to ride from Chicago to San Francisco and they want to find a rider or they want to share a ride with somebody, it’s just a way to do it and save considerable expense and meet somebody along the way and have a little bit of adventure and then we have a project group service, so for your wedding, for your corporation, for your religious organization, you can organize carpooling through the website and it’s only open to members of your group. JOHN SHEGERIAN: And, does the website work all across the country? STEVE SCHOEFFLER: It’s mostly U.S. and Canada, but we’ve got a number of users in Europe, India, South Africa — all over the world. JOHN SHEGERIAN: But anyone who wants to use it in Canada and the U.S. can go on and figure out a way to ride share with other people in their area? STEVE SCHOEFFLER: That’s right. It’s mostly active in the United States and Canada. JOHN SHEGERIAN: And, it’s free to people out there. STEVE SCHOEFFLER: Absolutely, there’s not charge to use it. JOHN SHEGERIAN: What a great service! Give the highlights of the financial benefits of carpooling. STEVE SCHOEFFLER: Well, especially for lower-income people, everybody like to think that they’re above average but the less income you have, the larger percentage of your total income goes to transportation. Transportation expenses are pretty fixed across income ranges, so that makes it a pretty large expense for people of more limited means, but anybody can save a really tremendous amount of money, thousands of dollars easily, by sharing a ride to work every day or prolonged long-distance travel. Gasoline is pretty expensive these days, and there’s wear and tear on the vehicle so there’s tremendous financial savings and the auto industry is using $450 billion of gasoline every year and it’s just a huge amount of money and we can save a lot of that very easily just by carpooling. JOHN SHEGERIAN: How about the environmental benefits? Can you share a couple of the environmental benefits? STEVE SCHOEFFLER: Well, the United States uses about 25% of the world’s energy and with 5% of the population, so we’re pretty much the chief emitter per capita of greenhouse gases and so we have a really significant responsibility to do something about that and carpooling is a way of immediately, without any real difficulty in setup or expense, it’s a way of immediately reducing your carbon footprint in a really substantial way and in addition to greenhouse gases, carpooling cuts on pollution and reduces traffic, gets everyone to work faster because there are less cars on the road so there are really tremendous benefits all across the board from carpooling. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Fourteen years you’ve been doing this, so you’ve had a chance to really put your mind around what’s going on and examine social behavior around sharing rides. What’s the biggest resistance? Why don’t more people share rides? STEVE SCHOEFFLER: Well, I think one thing is that people don’t necessarily realize the size of the expense. It’s like if the auto companies take a slice of the pie, it doesn’t quite feel like so much but when the price of gasoline goes over $4 a gallon, as we’ve seen a few times, people really sit up and take notice and interest in carpooling goes up. Interest in all the other modes goes up and people ride bicycles more. The sales of scooters goes up. Use of mass transit goes up and so I’d just like to see people can think a little bit more about the size of the expense that they’re paying little by little without the price of gas having to get to such an immediate pain point. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Steve, how many people on a monthly basis approximately use your great website? And, again, for our listeners out there, it’s eRideShare.com. How many people actually use your website on a monthly basis? STEVE SCHOEFFLER: I believe it’s in the 30,000 range. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Wow, that’s amazing so that’s a lot of — you’re saving the environment, this website. You get to help the environment, as you said, and you get to save these people dough so we’re down to the last minute-and-a-half. What’s your future plans? You’ve been doing this 14 years. What’s your future plans for this great website? STEVE SCHOEFFLER: We’re very excited about the app that we’re going to launch soon for iPhone and Android. It’s going to take advantage of GPS and communication features of the app and it’s going to be really significant for connecting people in a really, really easy and quick way for rides right away. It’s going to make it easier for people to connect to rides to work even if their commute changes from day to day. A lot of people say they’re working a retail job with hours that change. It’s hard for them to carpool because they need to find a different ride every day and this is going to really help out with that. JOHN SHEGERIAN: When is the app’s launch? STEVE SCHOEFFLER: We don’t have a firm date right now, but hopefully within the month. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’d be wonderful and for our listeners out there again, you can go to Steve’s great website and carpool and share rides. It’s eRideShare.com. We need more great tools like this to make the world a better place. Steve Schoeffler, you are making the world a better place one ride at a time and truly living proof that green is good. STEVE SCHOEFFLER: Thank you so much. Great talking to you.