Lauren Ruhland, 2008 MCPP intern
Carpooling is a favored method of transit among poor college students, and gives consumers a way to minimize their carbon footprint and save money. The clever guys at PickUp Pal decided to capitalize on this by offering an easy venue for would-be ridesharers to advertise their transportation need or availability. Their organized system has the added bonus of reputational ratings, which offer accountability not afforded to the hitchhiker with a “California or Bust!” sign.
“It is hard to see how such a thing could be anything less than a nifty social benefit of the Internet,” reads an editorial in Canada’s National Post, “but in Ontario, it is considered illegal.” That’s right– carpooling in Ontario is only legal if it involves commuting from the suburbs to the city for work purposes, according to the Ontario Highway Transport Board’s curious definition of “public vehicle.” You see, public vehicles must be operated only by specially licensed individuals. The driving force behind the broad definition? Bus operators who fear competition!
Now PickupPal, which has an estimated 15,000 registered users in Ontario, has become popular enough to attract the attention of intercity bus firms. They claim that allowing money to change hands between consenting individuals for inter-municipal trips makes the site illegal — in essence, that it makes PickupPal a bus service.
Lest you think such silliness is confined to our neighbor to the north–think again.
Hat tip to Janet Neilson, though it’s not on her blog.