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Students create app to simplify travel arrangements

By Sabrina Chow

Section: Features

March 2, 2018

Right before and after breaks, all the respective MyDeis Facebook pages fill up with students desperately looking for people to commute with them to or from the airport to save a bit of cash. With the influx of these posts, everything gets lost in the shuffle and no one is able to find rides. The Facebook group specifically for Travel Arrangements at Brandeis never seems to work properly, or register that a student is actually a student at Brandeis.

Having dealt with these constant struggles, Benjamin Segal ’20 and graduate students Akiba Sato and Tom Willkens, created the app Shift, in effort to create a mutual platform in which all students searching for possible travel companions can see them in one place.

“The app makes life a lot easier because people can post right on the calendar. Everything is centralized and it gets rid of the lack of organization that is seen in the Facebook groups,” said Willkens in an interview.

Similar to Uber and Lyft, Sato, Segal and Willkens wanted a name for the app that was short, sweet and simple. When discussing the name, Sato said in an interview, “It kinda just happened. It was a nice one syllable thing that relates to cars.”

Prices for services like Uber Pool and Lyft are often higher in smaller cities, leaving students searching for more affordable alternatives. Using Shift helps give students a more user-friendly and convenient interface to coordinate rides. The team is hoping to work with Uber or Lyft to get discounted rides for all passengers.

Since its launch, Shift has seen almost 100 users’ rides, with just over 60 rides initiated. Still in their beta phase, Sato, Segal and Willkens are hoping to update the interface for mobile users, not just desktop. “We are looking to make the website more mobile-friendly so people can access it on any device,” said Willkens in an interview. Websites tend to see much more traffic in general than apps.

“Statistically speaking, apps are not necessarily the most efficient way of getting information. The average phone user downloads less than one app a month,” according to Sato. The website is much more effective at having all the information in one place without requiring its users to download an app. The team hopes to potentially combine with other apps to create a multi-functional app for all students.

Once on the website, users are shown a calendar in which they can see when people are traveling and where they are travelling to and from. Just click on the time that matches up with yours and join the ride. The Shift team encourages people to actually join the ride instead of merely contacting the organizer so all people know how many available seats are left in the car.

To get onto the website, go to http://shiftbrandeis.herokuapp.com/login and login with your Brandeis email.

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