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Big Idea: Carpooler Robin Chase

Robin Chase first became a big wheel in the realm of transportation innovation in 2000, when she founded Zipcar, a car-sharing company that has since taken an estimated 50,000 cars off the road by encouraging drivers to shed their privately owned vehicles. 

Inspired by Zipcar's success, Chase, 50, launched GoLoco in April 2007, a national ride-share and social-networking Web site that has taken carpooling -- and carbon cutting -- to another level. Its popularity has soared, with some 10,000 users logging on to find someone to help them get to where they need to go. 

The best part? Drivers and passengers can split the cost of traveling -- which makes those $3-plus gallons of gas a little easier to bear.

What inspired you to start GoLoco?
Cars contribute 20 percent of the country's CO2 emissions, and while we'd like to reduce that number, the fact is, some people are completely car-dependent. They simply can't find another viable transit option where they live. Realizing that technology could now support an online ride-sharing venture, I jumped on the idea. Now drivers can mitigate their impact on the planet and save a little cash to boot. 

How does the site work?
With GoLoco, drivers log on and post trips they plan to take -- from a round-trip Boston-to-New York route to a quick run to the grocery store. Meanwhile, passengers can post or search for their desired destinations. The site enables these two groups to meet, and any sharing of expenses can take place online instead of in the car, so everything is paid before you take your trip. 

What's the social-networking component?
It's perfect for existing affinity groups, such as churches or parents whose kids play the same sports. Many people who participate in GoLoco have similar values or interests; I got my gardening group to sign up. Ride-sharing becomes an opportunity to see your friends more, while encouraging smarter transportation habits. It's so much more casual than calling everyone, and it makes planning trips more efficient.

Do you have a down-the-road plan?
We're working on including bicycling and walking trips on the site and making them searchable the way drives are now. Personally, I'd like to inspire people to tell their elected officials that we want action on global warming as soon as possible.

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