Should There Be a Hitchhiking Renaissance?

Want to save the planet? Maybe you should consider hitchhiking. (Photo: via Flickr)

One of the greatest transportation resources out there is… your backseat. According to a U.S. Department of Transportation report, the average vehicle commuting to and from work has only 1.1 people it. This means that about 80 percent of car capacity goes unused. In a moment when we’re worrying about gas consumption and carbon emissions, this is a lamentable inefficiency.

This week on Marketplace, Stephen J. Dubner suggests an old-time solution to this present-day problem: hitchhiking. Hear Freakonomics co-author and University of Chicago economist Steve Levitt explain how our fears chilled the hitchhiking market; transportation scholar Alan Pisarski talk about how thumbing for a ride became unnecessary; and if Dubner can talk host Kai Ryssdal into picking up a few strangers on his daily commute.

Here’s where you can find Marketplace on the radio near you.

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  1. Benjamin says:


    Stephen is on to something here.

    I finished hitchhiking the USA for a year and had a great time. I love it!

    I am not scared of people… if I don’t feel good about a ride, I don’t take it. People are not that bad.

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  2. Jaxax says:

    My younger son came up with a great hitchhiking strategy when he was working at a summer camp. He would get occasional days off, and he’d want to spend them with friends in a nearby town, but had no transportation. So he bought a plastic gasoline jerry-can. He cut a small rectangle out of one side of the top of the can, and that was his overnight suitcase. Catch is, when he’d be at the side of the road with a gas can, people would think he’d run out of gas, and were perfectly willing to pick him up and help him out. Then, when he’d explain what his gimmick was, they’d laugh at his creativity.

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  3. Jean Andre Vallery says:

    I’m trying to spread the word about the beauty of hitch hiking. I still hitch hike. visit my website dawgrunner dot word press dot com

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  4. dahszil says:

    The fact is that front page news stories about violence,danger, etc are for the most part rare. For example the amount of people that are fatalities in car crashes in a month are far more than the body count of train crashes in a year. Its the same with the rare hitch hiker meets with violence from person who picked him/her up. the same thing goes for personals meet ups: a bad incident is rare.

    I hitch hiked alone from the east coast to the west coast and back without one bad ride. thats about 4,000 miles in the USA. This was during the late 197o’s when there was a higher risk, imho, in hitchiking. The ironic thing that me, the hippie back then, got more rides from your run of the mill families, salesman, etc and hardly got any rides from fellow “freaks”. Usually they would just honk there horn and pass me bye…thanks bros, not.

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