Project helps journeys home for holidays
The Spring Festival travel rush in China is dubbed the world’s largest annual migration, with more 2.9 billion trips being made as people reunite with families to celebrate the LunarNewYear.
The urge to head home, however, puts ahugestrainon public transport, makingtrain ticketsfromcitiestolessdevelopedregionssomeof themost hard-to-get items.
But with this in mind, a non-profit project called Shunfengche is now in its fifth year offering a solution for many.
Roughly translated as “hitchhiking”, Shunfengche matches car owners who are willing to offer a free ride with those needing a lift, based on departure and destination via a short message service-based platform.
Wang Yong, the secretarygeneral of Brand China Industry Union, launched the project in2012 and says it has helped around 100,000 people since then.
Wang has been promoting carpooling in Beijing since 1998 as an effective way to relieve traffic congestion and reduce air pollution, generated by China’s 167 million passenger vehicles.
“Many warm-hearted car owners are generous enough to offer an empty seat to others — and they need a platform to help reach thosewho need help,” he said.
Anyone who wants to offer a free ride or need a ride can send “66” in a short message to 1066958800, and follow the instructions to find a match, or simply follow Shunfengche’s accounts onWeChat.
Participants in the hitchhiking project get free casualty accident insurance, too, with coverage of up to 100,000 yuan ($15,200), sponsored by the Beijing bureau of the insurance major China Life.
Wang said many of the ride-calling Internet firms, such as Didi Kuaidi and Uber, have also jumped in to offer similar services to help people gethomevia car sharing, although their services are not free with passengers needing to split gasoline costs with the drivers.
According to statistics from Didi Kuaidi, China’s largest mobile-based carhailing platform, it has received 580,000 cross-city carpooling requests for the Spring Festival travel rush, the longest recorded a 3,577kilometer journey from Sanya in Hainan province to Shenyang in Liaoning province.
But the competition doesn’t botherWang.
“We are happy to see more and more companies jumping in to offer similar services.
“Success doesn’t mean we help asmany people as possible. For us, if one day carpooling becomes an everyday behavior in people’s life, I’d call it success.”