"For business I have to get out of town, and I started noticing that getting around is a huge problem here."
"Everything in life is somewhere else, and you get there in a car," wrote popular author E.B White, who likely didn't know he was accurately describing Northern New Mexico.
Living in Taos and traveling to Santa Fe or Albuquerque for services or merchandise unavailable locally can be expensive and inconvenient.
An Uber ride, according to the smartphone app, will cost a person more than $200 one way to Santa Fe. The Blue Bus is free, but the schedules often aren't ideal.
One Taos-area software engineer is hoping to make ride sharing more convenient and affordable.
"I like working on my ideas and solving problems," says Nishant Pant. "For business I have to get out of town, and I started noticing that getting around is a huge problem here."
Pant recalls a trip he recently took flying out of Albuquerque at 7 p.m., thinking he could take the public transportation system.
"I found I had to leave at 7 in the morning, get a ride to Santa Fe, take the shuttle, then take the train, then take a taxi to get to the airport in time," he says. "So I went, man, this is 2018, traveling is hard, it needs to get better."
He started asking friends about Uber or other similar systems. Uber has strict requirements such as age and passenger size of the vehicle and condition of the car, and the company takes a cut of the profits.
Pant discovered a ride-sharing site within an Facebook application and decided to make a program so riders and drivers can search and match people in the local area.
"I put this together first to solve this one problem of getting around, and second, it's like my service to the community," Pant says.
The website is tripcarma.com.
Drivers keep 100 percent of the income and set their own rates for what they think is fair.
"All it does is connect drivers and riders together," he says.
He's keeping it a simple website for now and may move to a mobile app later, if the interest is there.
"Let me put the website out there," he said, "and let me see what the reception is and if people are using it."
A driver can post his or her trip and the site automatically calculates the gas cost depending on the vehicle profile and suggests a fee to charge the rider, but the driver can charge whatever he or she wants. The website works only if a person has a Facebook account for security reasons, so once a ride is posted, people can share it to their own page to boost ridership, if desired. The driver can set a minimum and maximum of passengers and a minimum or maximum fee. If there is a rider along the way who wants to join the trip, the passenger and the driver may agree on a lower fee if the trip is fewer miles.
For example, if a driver is going from Taos Ski Valley to Santa Fe, and a passenger in Española wants to go along, the driver can set a fee based on the shorter trip.
The driver and passenger can also negotiate a price through the web page as well. Riders can "follow" their favorite drivers and whenever that driver posts a trip, all the followers will get an email inviting them to join.
The driver can also add stops such as popular restaurants or hotels.
Pant has been meeting with drivers who post on the Taos Facebook ride-sharing page and signed up five drivers.
"The site has been up two weeks and so I'm happy with that, it's going pretty well," Pant says
His hope is that riders will discover the website and start signing up as well.
Pant was born near the Himalayas in India and came to the United States in 2002 to pursue his software engineering career. He arrived in Taos with his wife seeking the teachings of a Hindu guru who teaches followers to help everybody, to serve everybody, and to love everybody.
"In Taos there is a temple that is based on his teachings, so we made the trip in 2009 or 2010, and I was like, what is this magical place?" he remembers. He fell in love with the area, he says, based on the beauty, the culture and diversity. He and his wife, Neha, work remotely from home. They have an 11-year-old daughter, Shyla.
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