GREAT BARRINGTON -- For those who grew up in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, the idea of hitching a ride from a passing motorist is not a foreign idea -- but it is a lost art now. There are few hitchhikers on the highways of Berkshire County these days.

Donald "Chip" Elitzer would like to bring the concept back. In a slightly different form.

Elitzer calls it "Ride$hare," and the dollar sign is intentional.

Basically, he said, it's an adapted form of spontaneous car pooling.

"Or, less elegantly stated, paid hitchhiking," he said.

"But it requires no new laws, no bureaucracy and no taxes or fees," said Elitzer.

Elitzer said he has been pondering some version of this system for years and decided to try to launch it in Berkshire County to gauge its popularity.

Elitzer's plan is an attempt to address a few issues, he said. First, while there is a public transportation system in place here, it does not address the needs of many people, and is also expensive.

Gas prices are up, and studies show that many people do not car pool to work.

"A lot of commuter cars have only one occupant," he said.

The actual method is pretty basic, said Elitzer. Instead of sticking out one's thumb, an individual sticks out his hand, with his index and middle fingers forming a "V."

That hand signal would notify drivers a person's willingness to pay 50 cents for each five miles one needs to travel. Increments of less than five miles are rounded upward.

Elitzer got a "thumbs up" from the Great Barrington selectmen at the board's latest meeting. And, he said, he will be going to other towns and cities in the Berkshires to gain their support.

He also produced a letter from Clinton S. Bench, Deputy Executive Director of the state Office of Transportation and Planning. The state Depart-
ment of Transportation "is inclined to be supportive" of the plan, wrote Bench, but declined to enter into a formal partnership with Elitzer on it.

Elitzer acknowledged potential glitches in the Ride$hare plan. The first is the uncertainty of being picked up on a timely basis. To that, he noted that the potential for some financial recompense would, in theory, give a hitchhiker a little more hope to get a ride quickly.

The second issue is the potential for violence against either the driver or the rider. Elitzer pointed out that studies in Washington, D.C., Houston and San Francisco have reported minimal problems in that area.

In a 2012 story in the Dallas Observer, a Houston city official reported only one crime in the 20 years the city has been "slugging," as it is termed in that city. Similarly, in San Francisco, a study carried out in 2009 revealed no incidents over a 25-year span.

And, Elitzer said, "participation is always completely optional. Just like traditional hitchhiking, if you don't feel comfortable offering or taking a ride from a particular person, you drive by or wave him off."

For more information, BerkshireRideShare@gmail.com.

To reach Derek Gentile:
dgentile@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6251.
On Twitter: @DerekGentile