A former Williams Lake resident who returns regularly to visit family says with the departure of Greyhound and the number of flights to the region reduced she is recommending people try Poparide.
“I’m very passionate about Poparide,” Anita Fawcett said from her home in Vancouver. “Communities are so much at risk of not having the transportation they need until some new shuttle or bus service can start up.”
Fawcett said she promotes Poparide wherever she goes.
“I told the medical student in my building about it. Her parents had been driving from Hope to Kerrisdale to pick her up and take her home on weekends since the closure of Greyhound. She was thrilled to find out there were rides posted to Hope for $10.”
Recently Fawcett arranged for a friend’s daughter to get a ride to Williams Lake from Vancouver that was also very successful.
“She got a ride with someone who drives up to Williams Lake once a week for work and takes people,” she explained. “She had tons of luggage so he asked me if I could book two seats instead of one so I paid $70 instead of $35.”
Flo Devellennes, Poparide’s co-founder told the Tribune he is originally from Europe and moved to Vancouver in 2010 for a working holiday, planning to spend a year.
“The very first version of it was a really small website called Hitch Whistler and the story behind that is when I arrived because I loved skiing I bought a car and started driving up from Vancouver to Whistler,” he said. “I picked up lots of people along the way hitchhiking and they were telling me the only bus service available was slow, expensive and not very convenient.”
Initially he searched on the internet to see if there was a co-ordinated way to get a ride, did not find many options, so he built his website as an online forumto find other people heading up the mountain.
Looking back he said it was “really cool” because it only took a couple of weeks to build the website, he went to ski shops and put up posters, and after that he always had a full car of people getting rides with him to Whistler.
“Not only did I not have to pay for gas, but I also made some new friends along the way. Some of my best friends have come from giving them a ride. In fact, two years ago I was best man for a man I met on Hitch Whistler in 2011.”
Hitch Whistler was only a side project, completely free and built to help people initially and remained that way until 2014 when it grew to 10,000 users on the one route from Vancouver to Whistler.
During the time, the tech industry was changing, and companies such as Uber and Airbnb were building markets, Develleness said.
“They were these so-called ‘sharing economy’ successes and everyone was telling me I should do something with my project. It only took me four years to be convinced and in 2015 we launched it as a business and have been running it as a business the last four years.”
To sign up as a driver or a passenger with Poparide is entirely free.
It is the booking fee that generates an income.
The average driver will ask $15 per seat to get from Vancouver to Whistler.
“The passenger goes on the website or app, give credit card details, and we charge a 15 per cent booking fee so the passenger will actually pay $17.25. After the driving is completed we will deposit the $15 in the driver’s bank account and keep the $2.25.”
When asked if he’s eating, Devellennes chuckled and said they have more than 120,000 members across Canada and are operating in B.C., Alberta, Ontario and Quebec.
“We have specific routes we’ve targeted, and as the routes from larger cities get popular, then we find the side routes where we haven’t done any marketing kind of organically start working.”
A driver advertising rides from Vancouver to Prince George is willing to stop or pick up in 100 Mile House, Williams Lake or Quesnel, he added.
There has been a big uptake in the last six months resulting in 100 per cent growth, partly due to Greyhound withdrawing and because the company is maturing, Devellennes said.
“People are trying to get from ‘A’ to ‘B’ and there are no options. Our approach is becoming more relevant.”
Once Poparide is financially viable it is hoped they can look at ways to help people living in more remote communities, he said.
“We are committed to having an economic, social and environmental impact. It’s hard to get around affordably in Canada and yet there are all these people driving their cars and often they have empty seats. There’s a real opportunity to create a network of people helping people.”