Need a ride?
Local rideshare group started to save on gas costs, emissions
SARANAC LAKE — Need a ride? Saranac Lake resident Melinda Walton is hoping a rideshare Facebook group she started last week can help connect drivers with passengers.
There are many reasons people would want to share rides, Walton said. It could be to save on gas costs, conserving gas to reduce carbon emissions or for companionship on the long rides to what she calls “civilization” — the larger towns and cities more than an hour away.
The group named “Rideshare ADK” currently has 135 members and in the past week has seen a handful of posts from people announcing trips or requesting rides. The group is still pretty new, so its usage is low right now, but Walton hopes it picks up soon.
She started the group at a time when gas prices are at all-time highs due to inflation and a war in Eastern Europe, among other things. Prices shot up fast earlier this month, surpassing $4 quickly.
She’s considered starting a rideshare group for three or four years now, in relation to climate change.
“We’re always supposed to do things for environmental reasons, but until it hits people in their pocketbook, they’re not as likely to do it,” Walton said. “But when gas is $4.50 a gallon, then it starts becoming apparent.”
Walton expects prices will remain high. Even if prices go back down, she hopes people will still share rides. It’s a great time for conversation and companionship on long drives, she pointed out.
She said she decided to finally start her rideshare idea after filling up her gas tank two weeks ago.
“The most recent time, I mean, I’m filling up the tank and its $50,” she told the Enterprise. “I’ve got plenty of space. Somebody else could have come along too. … It just feels wasteful.”
She said with gas being so expensive now, she hopes it is an incentive to make an important change.
“I go to Plattsburgh about once a week, no reason why I couldn’t give a ride to someone who needs to go there the same day/similar timing,” Walton wrote on Facebook.
Walton remembers using a physical bulletin board at college in Florida, where she could share rides with classmates up and down the East Coast. This group is a digital version of that, she said.
Since moving to the Tri-Lakes, Walton said she’s picked up hitchhikers occasionally, especially if they’re walking in the rain.
People have always informally asked for rides or for people to pick up things when they drive to Lake Placid, Tupper Lake, Malone, Plattsburgh, Potsdam, Albany or Burlington, Vermont, where there are more stores and items that can’t be purchased here.
In Saranac Lake and Lake Placid community Facebook groups, Walton asked if there’s interest in a rideshare program and got positive feedback. She’s not sure if the need is more serious here, but distances between towns can be longer than elsewhere.
She said if this group is successful, each town in the area could consider starting its own rideshare community.
Walton said she anticipates this service will be most often used by people in the service industry who can’t afford vehicles, couples who have only one car or for people looking for companionship on longer rides around the North Country.
Rules of the road
Walton has set up some rules for the group, for safety while driving with strangers and understanding up-front between riders.
Drivers can’t charge money, but riders can voluntarily contribute for gas. Ride sharers assume responsibility for personal safety. Walton said it’s best when meeting strangers from online to know a bit about who they are.
During the coronavirus pandemic, she said people should discuss and agree on mask etiquette beforehand. She said this courtesy should extend to other social decisions, too — smoking, eating, drinking, language, children and pets.
The Facebook group can be found at https://bit.ly/3JyhxtU.