Great Barrington — It’s official: Great Barrington is the Ride$hare capital of Berkshire County.
It may not have decent public transportation, via the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority; it may not have its own shuttle network to ferry folks from downtown to the Kmart shopping center, to the East Mountain Medical, to the Big Y, or Lake Mansfield.
It may not have sidewalks to the Senior Center or bike lanes or bike paths.
But, by gum, it has Ride$hare.
The Selectboard has unanimously endorsed Chip Elitzer’s proposed concept of paid hitch-hiking, whereby someone seeking a ride to the store, to work, to the lake, to a date, or simply out to see the world, would stand by the side of the road, stick up two fingers in a V shape, and get picked up by drivers who have room in their car.
The cost: 50 cents for each five miles or fraction thereof.
“We believe that the Ride$hare concept – if widely adopted – could have important public benefits, including reducing gasoline consumption and air pollution, expanding the employment radius for job-seekers, and fostering a sense of civic connectedness. We endorse its implementation by Berkshire riders and drivers who would choose to participate voluntarily in a grand experiment,” the board’s resolution read.
“I want to start it here in Great Barrington,” Elitzer said, adding that Ride$hare has a web site to explain the concept and to encourage participation.
So far, however, Great Barrington is the only community that has taken an interest.
At the other end of the county, Williamstown shrugged.
Still, the enthusiasm of the Barrington Selectboard has not dimmed – nor, seemingly, has that of the town’s Police Department.
Sgt. Bill Bartini appeared before the board to convey Chief William Walsh’s approval of Ride$hare.
“I know that we tell every child not to get in a car with a stranger, but we support the carpooling idea, as long as we work out the safety issues,” he said. “Chief Walsh supports it so long as we work together.”
Town Manager Jennifer Tabakin noted that as far as the town is concerned, there are no legal issues as a result of the board’s endorsement, town counsel has advised her.
Still, Tabakin reminded the board of the shabby state of public transportation in Great Barrington and the Berkshires in general, where BRTA routes are not frequent enough or direct enough to serve riders needing to get to work. And she suggested the board undertake a survey to determine the community’s public transportation needs.