Think of it as Uber or Lyft for long haul journeys.

Or perhaps an alternative to Greyhound, Amtrak or even Southwest Airlines depending on how you look at it.

Launched earlier this year, OpenRide is the latest addition to the sharing economy, a platform that aims to connect like-minded travelers in a peer-to-peer ridesharing marketplace focused on long-distance travel.

Looking for an inexpensive way to get from Oakland to Los Angeles last minute? OpenRide just may be your solution. Functioning much like college ride boards from back in the day, the site matches people who need rides with drivers already making the trip.

In the digital world, it's a concept that for some reason is still in its infancy.

Search online for long distance ride sharing and you'll come across a smattering of sites that either look like early versions of Craigslist, (albeit dedicated solely to long distance rides,) or sites that have gone out of business, such as Tripda, which received a flurry of publicity when hitting the market a few years back, but is now shuttered.

OpenRide, created by Oxford grads Owen Scott and Joel Usher, aims to take the market to the next level.

"Since we've started, we've had tens of thousands of people express interest," says Jonah Bliss, the company's director of community.

Perhaps more significantly, OpenRide just hit one million miles supplied to users.

Those users include people like Brie Pearlman, a 26-year-old San Francisco transplant who recently shared a ride down the California coast, back to her hometown of Los Angeles.

"There's so many times when I'm looking for a last minute, less expensive way of getting back down to L.A.," begins Pearlman.

She opted for OpenRide, because the Greyhound takes far too long, and last minute flights between the two cities are far too pricey, somewhere in the $400 to $500 price range. Her OpenRide journey by comparison, cost $40 one-way.

"It definitely beats the cost of gas one-way or a flight one-way," she says.

As for the issue of taking an extended drive with strangers, (in Pearlman's case, three men) - there are pros and cons.

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On one level, Pearlman describes the trip as less relaxing than taking your own vehicle, because riding with others often requires making small talk much of the way. However, Pearlman's fellow riders also turned out to be people she found easy to get along with and with whom she had a few things in common.

"The first few minutes of the ride is filled with your classic small talk like, 'What do you do for a living?'" she says. "And two of us were construction engineers. But by the end of the trip we were exchanging music and playing each other's play lists."

As it turns out, the trip Pearlman took from San Francisco to Los Angeles is one of the site's most popular routes right now. Coverage throughout the rest of the nation remains sparse. Most of the ride shares offered are on the West Coast, primarily within California, although there is also coverage in Oregon and Washington, as well as Canada in the Toronto and Edmonton areas.

That limited inventory of rideshares may be due in large part to the fact that the site is still in its earliest phases, beta testing began in February.


Open Ride, however, has made some significant progress in its seven or eight months of existence.


It has inked partnership deals with more than 60 music festivals that have agreed to promote ride shares to and from their events (many well-known industry names such as Bhakti Fest West, Enchanted Forest Gathering, Stagecoach and Coachella.)

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Users of Pokemon Go (you know the biggest mobile game in history) are also taking notice of the ridesharing site in droves, says Bliss, thanks to the OpenRide's decision to create a Pokemapper that identifies the location of the game creatures around the world. The Pokemapper's launch went viral, generating one million unique visitors for the site in just two weeks.

But the Pokemapper was just a side project to raise OpenRide's profile in the marketplace, according to Bliss. While it was incredibly successful, the company still has much work to do establishing itself and the concept as a whole, while also expanding its footprint.

"For ridesharing specifically, the biggest players right now are the rides wanted section of Craigslist, and the old fashioned ride board at most colleges," says Bliss. "But we're also up against the idea that everyone needs their own car to get around this country, or the idea that if you don't have a car you have to do something at home or local if you want to have fun or go on an adventure. So, we're as much about expanding peoples' options as we are about competing with today's offerings."

Perhaps one other way the site is expanding people's options is in terms of income possibilities. Because for every Brie Pearlman using the site, there's also a Grace Gordon.

A former certified nursing assistant whose job disappeared when the registry she worked for lost its contract, Gordon now drives for OpenRide, along with Uber and Lyft.

The typical route she offers on OpenRide is the Oakland to Los Angeles trek, which Gordon drives about every two weeks. She charges $45 per person for the ride and typically ferries two to three people.

"It's helping pay my way through school," says Gordon who's now studying podiatry and English and plans to continue working for all three ride sharing sites until finishing her schooling.

She also plans to start participating in OpenRide's ride offerings associated with music festivals.

"Even if I don't want to attend the festival myself, I can drive people there," Gordon says. "And then once I'm there I can turn on my app for Uber and Lyft and drive for them while the festival is taking place. And when the festival ends, I bring the people back home for OpenRide. That way, you've made money all the way around."

Gordon may very well be onto something...Yet another score for the sharing economy.