SPLIT startup breaks up airport ride-sharing costs, brings students together


Illustration by Joanna Hou

SPLIT facilitates ride-sharing for Northwestern students traveling between the Evanston campus and the major Chicago airports.

Joanna Hou, Campus Editor

At the start and end of every Northwestern break, Weinberg junior Zach Delson’s class GroupMe crowds with messages from students trying to find people with whom to split Ubers and Lyfts to and from the airport. 

Delson said he wanted to streamline the process. 

“As summer was coming to an end this year, I saw (those messages) flooding in, and it hit me: There needs to be a service to connect (people) versus them having to text in the GroupMe,” he said. 

With McCormick sophomore Grayson Donnelly, Delson co-created SPLIT, a ride-sharing platform for students going to Chicago O’Hare International Airport and Chicago Midway International Airport from Northwestern’s Evanston campus. The platform currently uses a Google Form where students fill out their name, phone number and preferred destination and times. SPLIT is currently a resident team at The Garage. 

The service uses an algorithm to send students between one and three other matches. From there, students receive each other’s phone numbers to coordinate a time and location to meet. Delson said since its launch during Thanksgiving break, the app has had more than 1,850 forms filled out, facilitated 1,412 matches and saved students about $46,000 in total. 

Medill freshman Sophia Pirani said she first tried SPLIT at the start of Winter Break and has since used it a couple other times. According to the platform’s post-ride survey, individual Ubers and Lyfts from O’Hare average about $55, and surge pricing increases the cost to more than $90 at times.  

Pirani said using SPLIT has cut her costs down to about $15 per ride. Before she learned of startup, she said she would wait in O’Hare for her Uber or Lyft cost to slightly dip before selecting a $40 ride. 

“It’s very, very costly, especially as a college student, to afford to go to O’Hare and come back,” Pirani said. “It’s ridiculous paying like $200 for a flight and having to pay one-fourth of that just to get to (campus).”

NU’s airport transit options have been a topic of discussion among students on campus. Associated Student Government has been working to create a free airport shuttle program on high-travel days to and from the two major airports since it passed legislation in March 2022. However, the University administration’s reluctance to fund the program has stalled progress. 

It takes students about an hour and 10 minutes to travel to the University’s closest airport, O’Hare, by bus, and about two hours using the Chicago Transit Authority. Driving, in comparison, takes about 30-45 minutes, but the costs add up. 

Using a ride-sharing tool has several benefits, Delson said, including helping the environment and reducing costs. But student connections have turned out to be the most surprising one. 

“A cool thing we’ve found from this is that people actually have made new friends, met a lot of cool people, created new bonds over 45 minutes … someone even went on a date with someone after,” Delson said. “The connection element of meeting new Northwestern peers is one of the most underrated elements of this whole thing.” 

Weinberg sophomore Jake Lawrence, a SPLIT user, said he typically tries to talk to the people with whom he rideshares. He said he was able to have a conversation with a fellow economics student about class recommendations. 

Weinberg sophomore Noah Edelman said he has saved “hundreds of dollars” with SPLIT so far. He said has enjoyed meeting people from different majors, schools and backgrounds on his rides.

“It was really cool to be put in a situation where we just got to meet new people because that wouldn’t have happened otherwise,” Edelman said. “I still, if I see those people, wave to them or smile at them on the street.” 

Donnelly and Delson are working to move the ride-sharing platform off its current Google Form and creating a website display and app. This summer, Donnelly will take part in The Garage’s Jumpstart Pre-Accelerator program, which provides resources and coaching to early-stage student teams. 

The platform also aims to start expanding to ride-sharing locations besides the airport, Donnelly said. Delson added SPLIT hopes to address transportation problems specific to college students.

But the app might also soon become a place to meet your next NU best friend. 

“Some of the feedback we’ve gotten is people are interested in riding with people with similar interests, or similar class standing or similar gender for that matter,” Donnelly said. “We’re looking into incorporating some sort of matching component for people who want specific ride buddies and just forming new connections in that way.” 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @joannah_11

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