Ask Umbra: Should I find a rideshare for my trip — or just go Greyhound?
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Q. I would like to take a Greyhound bus with another family member on a short trip from Toledo to Cincinnati. It would be more relaxing than driving, and better for the planet. But we have an appointment we can’t miss. How do I find out how reliable the schedule is? Also, I have heard there are rideshare websites one can go to. Any information on them? Are they safe?
A. Dearest Kathy,
I’m revved to hear your enthusiasm for transportation options beyond the personal automobile. Given the choice, I, too, would happily hand the wheel over to someone else and spend those road hours catching up on my crossword puzzles. It’s the surest cure for road rage I know.
Planet-wise, the bus is an excellent option for your trip to The Queen City. Not only do Greyhounds have wifi these days, but buses are among your lowest-carbon choices: According to a Union of Concerned Scientists report, you and your relative will cut your carbon emissions almost in half over even a hybrid car by busing. The downside to this option over, say, a high-speed train is that you’re still tied to the ebb and flow of highway traffic.
Still, Greyhound reports pretty good overall numbers: A company spokesperson shared a fleetwide on-time performance rate of 89.3 percent. It’s tougher to suss out stats for individual lines, but I’ll bet a call to the local operators at your destination can give you a better idea. A few more tips for punctuality on the community chauffeur: Opt for express routes with fewer stops whenever possible. Pick an earlier bus to build in some buffer time for traffic slowdowns or other delays. If you have only a few daily departures to choose from and they’re too close for comfort, you might even consider making an excursion of it and arriving the day before. No stress, and you’ll have time to visit the art museum!
But if the bus won’t work for you, a rideshare is a solid runner-up. Rideshare websites operate like a digital version of the dorm bulletin board I had in college: They connect passengers looking for a lift to drivers seeking someone to share gas costs, and maybe her favorite road-trip playlist. It takes cars off the road, saves cash, and at its best, introduces you to fascinating new friends.
The simplest version of this burgeoning new scene is the rideshare section of Craigslist, but I’d encourage you to look into one of the more detailed sites, such as Ridejoy, Zimride, eRideShare, or Ridester. These dedicated sites offer driver and passenger profiles, “user” reviews from past trips, and/or links to Facebook profiles so you can do some pre-trip vetting and perhaps unearth some mutual friends. Some of these sites even arrange for passengers to pony up their share through PayPal or guarantee a refund in case of a dud ride, adding a layer of security to the transaction.
That said, Kathy, you’re wise to hearken back to childhood lessons about getting in cars with strangers. The majority of rideshares cruise along smoothly between likeminded neighbors, but you should follow some safety guidelines before hitting the gas. Most of the abovementioned sites feature their own safety procedures, which you should investigate: But in general, be smart and do your homework.
Meeting your prospective road buddy in a public place ahead of time is an excellent idea (bring your relative along too), both to get a feel for the person and to make sure he/she doesn’t plan to smoke or speed or blast didgeridoo music for four hours straight. If you get a weird vibe from the encounter, trust your gut and look elsewhere for your ride. But if you give it the green light from there, check each other’s driver’s licenses or IDs, and make sure the driver’s insurance is valid. (Some sites even recommend running your own background checks.) Leave a detailed itinerary with someone at home, including your new buddy’s name and contact information, car make and model, and license plate number. If the person balks at any of this, put on the brakes. Finally, don’t underestimate the peace of mind that comes with emergency pepper spray.
Safe travels, whatever you choose. And if you do go with a rideshare, write back in and tell me how it went, won’t you? I hear Cincinnati is lovely this time of year.