BTown Rides, a new app that launched Feb. 8, seeks to offer rides for students by students. An alternative to services such as Uber or Lyft, BTown Rides operates using students as drivers for their peers.
Two IU students saw an opportunity to create a ride service specifically for the Bloomington community. Junior Asher Hall and senior Michael McHugh created BTown Rides with this purpose in mind.
“We were infatuated with the idea of a transaction-free Uber, where you just pay the driver and the company shouldn’t make any money off that actual transaction,” McHugh said.
BTown Rides allows users to request rides anywhere on the IU campus for $5 a ride. Rides are available outside that radius for an increased fee.
The process to request a ride through this app is similar to other ride services. Open the app and select the destination, and a driver will complete the request. There is a tracking function that allows users to see where the drivers are on the map.
To pay for the ride, students can use either cash or Venmo. This process ensures that the full fare goes directly to the driver, instead of the company taking a portion of the fee.
“If we ever start touching the fare, we’ve failed as a company,” McHugh said. “The drivers are our business. If we don’t have good drivers, then we don’t have a good business.”
The app was officially released Feb. 8, and it has been rapidly growing since then. More than 1,100 people have started using the app in the first month following its release. Now, around 50 new people download the app each day.
The week the company launched, it had 5 drivers. Now, there are 20. By the end of this week, the goal is to have 50, McHugh said.
The addition of more drivers will allow the company to serve Bloomington 24/7.
Hall and McHugh said their immediate goal was to complete 100 rides a night with a less than 1 percent cancellation rate. Their biggest night so far was 60 rides from midnight Friday to midnight Saturday.
“We are a young and growing company,” Hall said. “Our biggest thing is word-of-mouth.”
While apps like Uber and Lyft also serve Bloomington, Hall and McHugh said they thought a more student-centered approach would be well received by the IU community.
“We want to be a student organization driving students,” McHugh said.
This emphasis on students applies to both the customers and the employees. The first student to start driving for the company, sophomore Wilson Lee, said the student-first approach was a major part of his interest in the job.
“Obviously, as college students, we have busy schedules,” he said. “But they’re really good about letting us be flexible.” Lee said he sees this flexibility as another way BTown Rides puts students first.
Lee also said many of his customers have voiced encouragement for a student-founded business. “Students like the idea of supporting other students,” he said. “I think that’s our biggest selling point.”
The knowledge that their driver will be a fellow student also creates a sense of trust among customers, Lee said. “They appreciate being able to relate with another student in the car. It’s not just someone that drives for Uber.”
Hall, Lee and McHugh all said the student-to-student connection is what sets the company apart.
“At the end of the day, it’s not about what kind of car you get into or anything like that,” McHugh said. “It’s about having a genuine person you can talk to behind the wheel.”
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