More than 700 UCF students and staff and faculty members have joined a new carpooling service that helps them save gas and money.

Organizers expect that number to increase rapidly during the first few weeks of the fall semester.

The carpooling service, called Zimride, harnesses popular online social networking to help UCF students and staff and faculty members save gas and money. UCF is the first university in Florida and the largest in the nation to offer the service.

UCF’s Student Government Association and Parking and Transportation Services began offering the service for free to the entire UCF community in late June. Since then, nearly 14,500 available rides have been posted.

“Zimride creates a private network and empowers individuals to join together and reduce traffic on campus, lessen environmental impacts and save money,” said SGA Vice President Taylor Lochrane.

Here’s how it works: Users log in at Zimride at UCF with their university e-mail addresses, create profiles and view others’ profiles. They share details of their commutes, including music preferences and driving styles. Drivers have the option of charging riders and posting the prices on their profiles.

Users can limit how much information ride seekers see. Security settings allow only the university community to sign up on the UCF-Zimride Web site.

Zimride directly links with users’ Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and other social media networks, enabling them to quickly contact riders or drivers. Users can rate other drivers and find out how much money they’re saving in gas and how much they’re reducing their own carbon footprint by carpooling.

The university also can calculate how much its community is reducing emissions through carpooling. The initiative is part of a larger effort to help UCF become climate neutral by 2050.

“This new transportation alternative is a fun, easy and sustainable way for everyone to collectively make a difference,” Lochrane said.

Zimride is the largest online social rideshare community in North America with more than 350,000 users. Other schools using the service include Stanford University, UCLA and the University of Michigan.

Organizers hope at least 10 percent of UCF’s population will sign up for Zimride within the first year.

UCF continues to operate a free shuttle system that connects the campus with 17 nearby apartment complexes, the Central Florida Research Park, the Rosen College of Hospitality Management and the College of Medicine at Lake Nona.

With 34 buses, the shuttle system has served more than 2 million riders since it started in 2002.

“We think Zimride will work well here,” said Kris Singh, director of UCF Parking and Transportation Services. “Along with our successful shuttles, carpooling makes getting to and from campus more convenient, helps our students save money and has a sizeable impact on campus traffic and parking.”