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Web service provides savvy travellers with a power trip

In an era where sites like GroupOn and DealTicker offer discounted goods and services through the power of group buying, a similar Canadian-made concept called TripOn has emerged for group budget travel.

TripOn – – is based in the Greater Toronto Area and offers a service that connects users with chartered bus and coach companies to provide transportation for those needing a lift. The scope of the service is limited to southern Ontario: Barrie to the north, London to the west, Ottawa to the east and Buffalo to the south.

TripOn has a web-based application on its site, plus an iPhone app. You choose the location and timing of your pickup and drop-off points, the vehicle and minimum number of passengers (between one and 56 people), pay a deposit and have others opt in for your trek. The more people opt in, the lower the overall cost. Vehicle types range from 11-seat executive vans to 32-seat or 56-seat coach buses.

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TripOn is required to use regulated coach companies because Ontario law prohibits organized car pooling services where the driver isn't employed or contracted by a car service.

TripOn's stipulations also indicate that a trip can only start within 72 hours of booking, and that a user has to be picked up and dropped off within a 12-hour window, thus precluding any real overnight or 24-hour stays in another city. Users also need to be at the pickup location at least 15 minutes prior to departure.

Trips currently up for grabs are easy to find on the TripOn site, but don't appear as readily on the iPhone app for some reason. You can search for a start and end point, but it forces you to also search for an exact time, which may take several tries to bear fruit because you can't pick a range. This would be a lot easier if you could pick a date and leave it at that.

But the process is relatively seamless, except for the element that relies on others to jump into the fray. In other words, the original cost would have to at least be palatable as a Plan B, just in case others don't buy in to lower the bottom line. That's the risk and reward that TripOn seems to offer in its early stages.

Sako Dekirmendjian, TripOn's vice-president of marketing and sales, said it is in the midst of expanding the service by creating partnerships in Montreal and New York, which are both likely to launch before the end of the year. He didn't comment on any future plans for other parts of Canada.

A Facebook app is in the works to make it easier for users to create and join trips directly on the social networking site. Whether this will include integration with Facebook's existing Events pages isn't clear. Apps for Android and BlackBerry will also be launched in early 2012, he says.

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