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Relay Rides: Tag, you drive

   /   Mar 31st, 2010Magazine, News

For decades, city dwellers have grappled with the question:  to car or not to car?  Own one, and you’ve got to park it somewhere, a process that’s nearly guaranteed to be a daily intrusion on your time, wallet, and sanity.  But go car-less, and you’re stuck without a way to run cross-town errands or take a weekend getaway.  Car-sharing services have sprouted up in many cities to ease the burden, but the vehicles aren’t always parked close to home and must be reserved well in advance.

Enter Shelby Clark, the entrepreneurial urbanite behind RelayRides, the first “person-to-person car-sharing marketplace.”  As members of RelayRides, car owners earn money by renting cars to neighbors, and renters gain access to ultra-convenient, affordable rides.  RelayRides connects the two groups, vets potential drivers, and provides gas and insurance. In other words, it creates an online, neighborhood transportation hub without putting a single new car on the road.

Clark says the idea for RelayRides hit him while biking through a snowy Boston neighborhood on his way to a car he’d reserved through ZipCar.  As he pedaled past parked cars, he was struck by the irony and inefficiency of his situation:  “These cars haven’t been driven in weeks. Why can’t I take one?” Clark, a Harvard Business School student with a passion for social entrepreneurship, was inspired. An early employee at microlending site Kiva.org, he knew about the Internet’s power to connect people to surplus resources being held by others.  He was also aware that the best innovations happen when you take a great idea and find a way to make it better.  Inspired by the concept of ZipCar and the ethos of Kiva, Clark founded RelayRide’s person-to-person car-sharing service in late 2008.  The program currently operates within Baltimore, Md. where, the company says, each shared car replaces 14 to 18 cars on the road.

Photo: Seattle Weekly

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