It’s not surprising that this weekend’s Women’s March in Washington, D,C., which originated with a Facebook post and has grown into a political event expected to attract hundreds of thousands of activists, has benefitted from the myriad methods of digital communication available to contemporary organizers. Planners have used social media and webs of Google Docs to create a massive moment in a matter of a few short months, as well as a robust digital resource page with information on safety and secure messaging services. But in addition to spreading the word, march organizers, allies, and startups have utilized technology to help solve the myriad logistics and transportation issues presented by the grassroots events.
Other large marches and inaugurations in the past utilized tech, or provided big boosts to tech firms (Airbnb, a relatively unknown in 2009, benefitted from exposure during Obama’s inauguration), but the Women’s March has the benefit of mobile technology and crowdfunding, the later of which has helped provide rides to the march, funded sound system setups for speakers. There’s even an app for attendees, powered by DoubleDutch, with bus schedules, FAQs, and other pertinent information.
With marchers expected to stream in from across the country this weekend, new transportation companies have rallied to try and fill the demand. Skedaddle and Rally, two bus-sharing startups, have booked trips for tens of thousands of passengers. According to The New York Times, Skedaddle is expected to bring in more than 11,000 people to the Women’s March, roughly 5 percent of the total planning to attend. Rally already tapped into a reserve supply of school buses to help meet demand after filling up 800 other buses.
With D.C. expected to be swamped with marchers, ridehailing companies such as Uber and Lyft are expecting big crowds. Uber released a plan for inauguration weekend suggesting riders book trips in advance and take advantage of the Metro to reduce congestion and wait times. Airbnb has also seen record bookings for inauguration weekend, expecting 10,000 visitors (who will help hosts earn $3.5M), while a MarchBNB service has been set up to provide lodging.
Others sites have spring up to help coordinate ride-sharing and provide housing for those planning overnight stays. Marchmatch, designed by Lauren Bugeja and Joe Case, works as a community bulletin board as sorts, connecting marchers potential rideshares and coordinating other connections.
Bugeja and Case started developing the service in the beginning of December, launched a site in six days, and have continued to add features as January 21st approaches. A New York-based user experience designer who plans to attend the event, Bugeja said she saw a lot of people making connections on the march’s Facebook group, trying to find rides and organize carpools, but the platform wasn’t necessarily built for secure communications (trolls were taking advantage of people sharing phone numbers and other personal information on the Facebook page). Marchmatch partnered with the organizers, who helped promote the site as a way to connect those headed to D.C. Traffic to the site has grown exponentially, now up to more than 2,000 visits daily.
“I put out a request as a test, and almost immediately got 65 responses to help,” says Bugeja. “It’s amazing how many people want to help.”
Looking back, Bugeja believes that the biggest technological need for the march would have been a website to centralize bus charters and arrange group rides, which she believes would have been impossible with the time available to create and launch such a platform.