Sunday, September 14, 2008

Alternative Transportation

When in the early 1990's gasoline in Russia got too expensive and scarce, Russian drivers started picking up hitchhikers and charging them. Here's an excerpt from Reinventing Collapse:
When I was in St. Petersburg in the summer of 1990, the lives of drivers were complicated by gasoline shortages, which resulted in long lines at the few gas stations that happened to be open, often made worse by a ten-liter limit on gasoline purchases. For many drivers, this meant that many hours had to be spent looking for gas. Some knew how to buy gasoline on the black market, through the various government depots that received their allotments separately from the retail distribution system, but there they had to pay black market prices. What was a headache for drivers turned out to be a bonanza for the non-drivers: almost every private car was for hire, in a manner of speaking. To get a lift, all I had to do was stand by the side of the road and stretch out my hand. Within minutes, a car would pull over. The driver would ask me where I wanted to go, and give a yes or no answer. There was rarely room for negotiation: either it was along his way, or it was not. The driver would also name the price — usually two or three rubles — which was most reasonable.
Now, you might agree that this is an idea whose time has come to our hurricane-ravaged shores, but then Americans don't seem able to conceive of a solution to a problem that does not involve some newfangled gadget; to wit, plastic composting bins in place of traditional heaps and pits. But then I happened across just such a thing. It's called Avego. It's a newfangled, gadget-based, paid-for hitchhiking system that's just being launched in Ireland and the UK. Not as simple as sticking your thumb out, but perhaps almost as effective.

4 comments :

wheelebob said...

We Americans have an unconscious fetish for over complex solutions. We also love advertising, loop holes, and undercutting competition.

What is the definition of alternative transportation? Alternative transport is anything but personal automobile ownership and all of its trappings.

A barter to ride system using current rolling stock could circumvent current alternative transport.

One idea would be for one to drive their car to a city bus hub with a park and ride system. Hold up a cardboard signing reading: "RIDES. inquire sign holder." One looking for a ride would walk to the sign holder and begin negotiation. Compensation for a ride could be anything cash, food, gas, jokes, foodstamps, etc. As long as the exchange is less than a bus ticket the potential fare will take the offer.

Depending on the compensation the business model could be dangerously illegal to laughably benign.

Jas. the Hidden said...

I'm not sure that would work here unless the insurance and/or legal systems also collapsed. Example: if insurance is required by law to drive a car (as it is in many states), but hyperinflation makes insurance unaffordable, how few people would be willing to risk driving without that legal protection, especially if the post-Collapse legal system chooses takes away your car (and siphons your gasoline to fuel up the police vehicles)?

On another note, one question I almost never see addressed in these collapse models: what time frame are we looking at for Collapse in the USA? I mean, are we talking 20 years? Ten? Less than 5? Or is it something which has no time table but which, when it happens, will happen unpredictably and frighteningly fast? This could be important because those of us without post-Collapse skills would need to know if we even have the time to acquire what we would need post-Collapse or if we will need to plan on privation ... or, for those of us past a certain age with no children, whether Collapse should be expected in our lifetime anyway. (Frankly, if Collapse is far enough off, I'm not going to bother worrying about it because I would fall into that latter category.)

wheelebob said...

Allow me to clarify. My earlier proposal is a form of gypsy cab. The gypsy cab operator would have to deal with insurance, maintenance, legal ramifications, etc. The fare (customer) would be in a low risk position. This sort of business model would work in the current state of America, although slightly dubious.

The time frame and dynamics of American collapse are open to speculation. America has been in decline for at least 30 years. Decline without full recovery is collapses little brother.

Jas, as for your personal situation. You probably have no need to worry much. Avoid/escape debt, learn to live with minimal needs, and stay in good health.

Oh, and don't forget to enjoy the niceties the industrial world is currently providing. Hop on a jetplane to relax in the tropics for a bit or eat food from the other side of the world. These luxuries may be gone soon. But in your lifetime I doubt you will die of starvation or be thrown in a forced labor camp.

Donal said...

During the 1970s gas crisis there was some hitchhike commuting going on in Wash DC area. My roommate worked downtown and would bring a sign and catch on with someone. He never mentioned paying for it, though. It was reported on the local news, too.

The drawback to hitchhiking is that the perceived risk of assault, promulgated by such films as "The Hitcher," has destroyed any sense of trust.