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.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
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: