Economy, Sci & Tech

Chinese Use Carpooling App in Droves

Chinese Use Carpooling App in Droves
Chinese Use Carpooling App in Droves

The hundreds of millions of Chinese heading home for Lunar New Year have a relatively new travel option this year: mobile apps to find carpool partners to share costs in what is a novel concept for most Chinese.

The apps give an alternative to pricey airfares and hard-to-score train tickets. Software developer Li Jin in Shanghai used one after he had to abort his flight plans because of last-minute work demands and found that the only train tickets left going to his hometown in northwestern Shaanxi province were for expensive business-class seats.

Then he tried using the Didi Chuxing (pronounced "dee dee choo shing") carpool app and found a driver, real estate agent Chen Xiao, going his way.

"She said she still had a free space, so we agreed and now I'm using this way to get home," Li said.

Li paid Chen 400 yuan ($60) for his seat home, roughly the same cost for a second-class train ticket for the same journey. He shared the ride in a BMW sedan with three other passengers, including a child.

Carpooling is still unusual in China, but government officials welcome the idea as a way to alleviate the enormous burden placed on the public transportation system during the Lunar New Year holidays—China's most important vacation period when hundreds of millions travel to their hometowns.

All told, Chinese will make a total of 2.9 billion trips this holiday season and 2.5 billion of them will be by road, according to official estimates.

Wang said 300,000 used the service in the first week of the holiday travel, which began on Jan. 24.

"As the Feb. 8 start of the holiday drew closer, the usage jumped to 100,000 per day and nearly half of the orders involved trips longer than 500 kilometers," he said.

Chinese travelers are not the only people using this new type of service. Even in Iran's capital a new website is promoting the idea of car sharing by linking up people traveling in the same direction.  The system currently only in website form was developed by Azadeh Kianpour, an Iranian university graduate from Tehran.  The company name in Persian is "Chaparan", which refers to Achaemenid era postmen who rode on chariots and switched horses at designated mid-road stop.