Great Barrington Selectboard endorses the Ride$hare concept

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By Tuesday, Jun 17 News  5 Comments
David Scribner
The Great Barrington Selectboard, flashing the V sign, after endorsing the Ride$hare concept developed by Chip Elitzer.

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.


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5 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Karen W. Smith says:

    I THINK IT IS A GREAT CONCEPT AND THE NEED IS GREAT. I HAVE A CONCERN IF SOMEONE COULD ELABORATE…WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A THUMB AND A V TO PEOPLE WHO WOULD PICK UP SOMEONE? DOES THE V ENSURE THEY ARE A SAFE RIDER? I DON’T AS A RULE PICK ANYONE UP UNLESS I KNOW THEM.

    1. Chip Elitzer says:

      Ride$hare would confer an enormous safety benefit by reducing the number of cars on the road, which would translate directly into fewer deaths and injuries. For the full argument, go to http://www.BerkshireRideShare.com and click on my “Comment”.

  2. mary says:

    Does the V stand for ‘be Very careful’ who you are letting in your car? or, does it stand for ‘be Very careful’ whose car you’re getting into? Ride share and hitchhiking are equally risky.

  3. Mary Eastland says:

    Maybe the V sign will really help when a young person gets in the car with a person that harms them…will we endorse that? Bad idea. Spend the money for public transport …we spend it on everything else. Getting in the car with someone you don’t know is dangerous as is letting someone into your car. (Whether you know them or not…)

    1. Chip Elitzer says:

      The biggest safety argument in favor of Ride$hare:

      Official 2012 Crash Statistics:
      http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811856.pdf

      Nationally: 33,561 killed, 2,362,000 injured

      Massachusetts: 349 killed, 24,562 (extrapolated) injured

      Berkshire County had exactly 2.00% of the population of the state in the last census. That would translate into 7 deaths and 491 injuries in 2012 if Berkshire County had an average fatality rate. However, Berkshire County’s fatality rate, by population, was almost twice the Massachusetts average.

      Safety argument for Ride$hare: Because motor vehicle-caused deaths and injuries (including to pedestrians and cyclists) are directly correlated with vehicle miles, any reduction in vehicle miles due to “spontaneous carpooling” will increase traffic safety. If Ride$hare is successful in being massively adopted, it could cut the vehicles on the road by, say, 20%, which could save 2-3 lives and about 175 injuries a year in Berkshire County. Contrasted to the zero incidence of crime over many years in HOV-related stranger-to-stranger carpooling in San Francisco, Houston, and DC, and even allowing for the possibility of an occasional incident involving Ride$hare, it is clear that Ride$hare would reduce overall risk to citizens by a statistically significant amount. (Just an educated guess, but the decrease in accident victims would probably be at least 100 times greater than the increase in crime victims.) And since teenagers and young adults are at greater risk of being involved in traffic accidents that the general population, they would benefit even more from Ride$hare’s risk reduction effect.

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