Information courtesy Ideas in Transit
Liftshare provides software tools and support for liftsharing (ridesharing) for individuals, communities and organisations. Their main area of work has been to develop the national liftshare network which helps individuals to find others traveling the same way as them so they can travel together. Liftshare also helps organisations and communities to set-up and monitor their own journey matching system and enable members of the network to share best practice and to keep up with the technical developments.
The network now supports: walking groups (WalkBUDi); cycle groups (BikeBUDi), car sharing, lift sharing, car pooling, ride sharing, (CarBUDi); taxi sharing (TaxiBUDi); and better use of community and public transport (TravelBUDi) systems”
Liftshare also has a sister site that supports school-based liftsharing: www.school-run.org
Liftshare was started by Ali Clabburn during his second year at University. Friends often helped with the development of Liftshare, giving their services for free, and sometimes as part of student projects.
Ali Clabburn was prompted to develop Liftshare after experiencing expensive public transport as a student when travelling between University and his parent’s home. During his gap year he saw car share offices in German trains stations and, on his return, realised there was nothing similar in the UK.
Early development of the service was characterised by favours from friends and minimal/no financial outlay. A computer science student friend built the first version of the website as a university project. Marketing materials were produced for free. Friends helped Clabburn launch at 6 Fresher’s Fairs. He relates their experience at the first Fair: “First thing in the morning we charged people £10 to join the system. Then by lunchtime we were charging £5 and by the end of the day we were offering it for free. Students loved the idea but they didn't want to part with a tenner.” Lots of people signed up, but Clabburn was left with the challenge of how the service could generate income. He tried for government funding but without success. Two work experience students built the next version of the website and launched at more Fresher’s Fairs but there was still no income.
A significant stage of the development was when Liftshare was approached by the Glastonbury Festival organisers to develop a branded site to solve congestion and local resident protests. Clabburn states “It was a huge success and has saved an estimated 10,000 car journeys to the festival each year. It was also a breakthrough for Liftshare. It showed how it could make money and highlighted the importance of finding people with a common link. This has served as the basis of Liftshare's business model: allowing the public to sign up free to the national car-sharing system, while earning revenue from clients who pay a one-off sum plus a regular licence fee for setting up a system for their employees or customers.”
The success of Liftshare continued to grow. In 2000 they won a big commercial contract for a group of businesses in South Gloscestershire. Currently (2008) they have over a 1000 clients consisting of local authorities, universities, schools, communities and hospitals. Liftshare has won many awards and has raised liftsharing up the government agenda. Clabburn says “I thought it would take about six months to get as far as we’ve got today. It took eight years.”
The Liftshare site states their success thus: “It is estimated that the system saves approximately 31 million car miles per annum and reduces carbon dioxide emissions by over 10,000 tonnes per year. But it is not just the environment that has benefited. It has made a difference to people's lives as well. For those living in rural areas, where transport is poor or non-existent, it has provided a lifeline. 'They use the system for everyday things like visiting the doctor, shopping or going to church,' explains Clabburn. “It has quite literally brought people together”. One liftsharer was amazed to meet their next - door neighbour though the site. After the bombings in London in July 2005, liftshare helped thousands of people get home when Transport for London posted an emergency news flash on its website encouraging people to use the service. “The feedback afterwards was amazing” says Clabburn. "People emailed to say: "What a great idea, what a brilliant service. But why haven't we heard of you before?”