The current Freakonomics Radio Podcast asks Where Have All the Hitchhikers Gone? Explanations for the decline in the number of people sticking their thumb out on the highway include the risks associated with getting in the car with a stranger, spikes in the number of licensed drivers and car ownership, and increased auto durability.
What I found most interesting is the statistic that the average commuting vehicle carries only 1.1 people, leaving roughly 80% of its capacity unused.
Some individuals and companies are responding to this huge inefficiency. In the Washington, DC area, "sluggers" are picked up by total strangers in order to meet the 3-person high occupancy vehicle (HOV) requirement for various highways. No money is exchanged because the transaction is mutually beneficial.
And a company called Zimride offers a ridesharing site where those needing a lift can be matched up with drivers going to or near that destination.
Greater use of those types of services would not only allow more efficient use of vehicles (and fuel), but would also help ease the burdens of harried parents. And it also would lead to more interaction between people in our communities.
And I am for all of that.