By Matthew Wolfe
Let’s say you’re a Brooklyn parent and your virtuosic young child participates in scheduled activities all over the borough: soccer practice in Marine Park, music lessons in Bay Ridge, arts classes in Sheepshead Bay, etc., to say nothing of school. Your young prodigy can take public transportation sometimes, but there are other times – late at night, during bad weather, when the event is just too darn far from the subway stop – that you’re going to have to drive them. This is fine sometimes, but driving through post-industrial Brooklyn gets old, and expensive, really quick. So what to do? Well, it’s said that the best ideas are most often the simplest. Dividetheride.com., a new website that enables parents to coordinate their children’s schedules and carpool with other families, may be one of those fine, simple ideas fit for the Brooklyn parent. Here’s how it works: Parents visit the site and enter their children’s activity schedule. Then they invite other parents to join the carpool. Divide The Ride creates a carpool calendar and then emails the parents with the schedule as well as reminders of who’s on duty each day. Parents who know each other share the burden. The kids get picked up and you’re off the hook three quarters of the time. The site, launched in October of last year, has already entered wide use, with visitors to the site coming from all 50 states. Part of the reason for the site’s success is that it’s aimed at parents, said Divide The Ride spokesperson Debbie Koke. While a number of carpooling websites exist, most are targeted at commuters, said Koko, unlike Divide The Ride, which is exclusively for the use of parents. “It’s the instantaneous aspect of it that’s very popular with the parents,” said Koke. “They like that they don’t have to get on the phone and call a whole bunch of people.” While the list of people who use the site is confidential – nobody knows your child’s schedule but you – several Brooklyn parents asked about the site responded positively. “Driving is a nightmare,” groaned Dawn Riggs, a Brooklyn mother of one pre-teen boy. “I’ve tried carpooling before, but getting it all synced up is hard. If a site could help me figure out which parents are going to the Red Hook ballfields that day, sure, I’d use it.” Other parents were slightly distrustful of the reliability of an unknown site and wanted to test it before putting their children in its hands. “I’d want to test the site first and make sure it worked,” said Sheila Fontane, a mother of two daughters in Park Slope. “But yeah, so long as I could pick who I do it with and there are no mistakes, I would be all in favor of it. While the need for Divide The Ride has always been around, said company’s spokesperson Koke said, the site’s launch happens to coincide with several current forces that make carpooling an attractive idea now more than ever. For one, Brooklyn drivers are experiencing a sharp pain in the right-read pocket where they keep their wallet every time they visit gas pump. The price of oil, which recently burst through the symbolic ceiling of $100 per barrel, looks likely to go only higher as tensions in the Middle East continue and with a jump in demand from nations with emerging economies such as China and Russia. While drivers so far have weathered the recent price hikes with quiet aplomb, experts suggest that expected increases couple with a tremulous economy could push drivers to seek ways of sparing their mileage wherever they can find them. A renewed interest in carpooling has also been partly spawned by a growing “green” movement, in which consumers have begun to look more often for environmentally-friendly products and services. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has included Brooklyn in his PlaNYC, a movement to make the city less reliant on energy and more ecologically mindful. Many Brooklyn drivers have taken to considering how they can reduce their own “carbon footprint” and cut down on the amount of gas they are responsible for releasing into the air. With Divide the Ride addressing those needs, what’s the best part? “It’s totally free,” said Koke.