Ride sharing is an alternative to hitchhiking.
Like hitchhiking, it involves seeking a ride in a vehicle operated by another traveller who is going to the same destination. Unlike hitchhiking, the arrangements are usually made in advance; the passenger makes some token payment to the driver to defray or partially defray the cost of the trip.
Ridesharing means more ecological and economical transport compared to single occupancy car travel as more than one person ride in a vehicle meaning less consumption of fuel per person transport kilometer and enabling higher traffic density. These services have mobile optimized webapps and also many have native mobile apps.
In some countries the legal status of ride sharing with any compensation to the driver is unclear, as it may be regarded as an illegal taxi. The probability of problems for a passenger is low, but if you are going to offer ride sharing for money, you should check this. As licensing taxis is in the jurisdiction of local municipalities in many places, the situation can vary drastically from city to city.
Various Peer-to-peer ridesharing media are useful to locate prospective drivers or passengers for ride sharing:
- Adhoc "split the gas money and be social" real-time via mobile and webapp. Both enabled by ubiquity of mobile communication networks.
- Ride boards. These originally were physical bulletin boards affixed to walls in high-traffic areas which attract voyagers; for instance, inside a youth hostel or other transient lodging. Universities often provide a ride board in a central location to match students returning to their home towns with drivers and vehicles.
- Computer bulletin boards or message forums evidently could be deployed for use in a very similar manner, moving the same concept on-line.
- Classified adverts. While an advert in a printed newspaper would have been prohibitively expensive, websites like Craigslist are free advertising. well within the reach of the average backpacker. Just be wary; these sites do nothing to verify the identity (or the reliability) of the people you're dealing with.
- Specialist websites such as Covoiturage.fr, Rdvouz.com, idvroom in France, or Kangaride (Amigo Express) in Montréal. BlaBlaCar, LiftSurfer and RideshareOnline are similar. Some of these services verify drivers' licences and/or allow drivers and passengers to rate each other.
- Slugging is a term originating in 1990s USA where authorities designate appropriate places as slug line location where people can hang out expecting some rides being offered.
- The service of matching drivers and vehicles to passengers could be done from a bricks-and-mortar office. In some jurisdictions, intercity bus companies have lobbied to prevent commercial ride sharing agencies in order to eliminate what they perceive to be a competitor.
- A few websites and specialised apps provided "flightsharing", ride sharing with private pilots in general aviation. Many of these were US-based and shut down after a lengthy 2014-15 legal battle in which the US Federal Aviation Administration sought to apply the same regulations to ridesharing as to commercial charter operators with professional commercial pilots.
Ride sharing is most likely to be successful between major centres or popular, beaten-path destinations. On long trips, such as a cross-country Trans-Canada Highway run, passengers may be asked to do some of the long haul driving. It's best to post a request for transportation well in advance and start checking for offer listings at least a week prior to the desired departure dates. It also helps to be flexible with departure and arrival times. As with hitchhiking, some common sense and discretion is advisable.
Ride sharing is not to be confused with:
- Long-term, workplace carpooling for commuters. The concept is very similar, and terminology like the French-language covoiturage (carpooling) is very often used for both, but commuter carpools are short-haul trips where drivers and passengers are expected to be at the same locations every day.
- Car sharing schemes where an organisation acquires a fleet of vehicles for short-term, self-service rental to its members - no driver included. Some are co-operatives or non-profit, some are commercial businesses, some are chains operated by the mainstream hire car firms. See Carsharing. There are also bicycle sharing schemes where a municipality or other organisation lends or rents cycles short-term as local transportation within a city, usually for environmental reasons.
- Taxi-like services in private vehicles, like Uber, Haxi and Lyft. A ride-share passenger is looking for a driver who is already going to their destination, usually as a means to share expenses, while "ridesourcing" or ride hailing services find drivers who will go out of their way in return for monetary profit. Some levels of these services can dispatch conventional taxicabs for a fee.