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  • Writer's pictureashley saile

From Hitch Hiking to Taxis: Our Obsession with Being the Passenger

Est. Read Time: 4 minutes and 21 seconds.

Come hitch a ride with us on a wild journey around the world! Hitchhiking's history is a boisterous tale, and we're ready to take a deep dive into the data behind this global phenomenon. Fasten your seat belts for a bumpy ride as we explore why some folks choose ride-sharing over owning their own ride.

When the thought of hitchhiking arises, images of free-spirited, long-haired wanderers clad in bell-bottoms, strumming a guitar, and barefoot come to mind. This portrayal endures even in this age, although hitchhiking is far more than a hippie's pastime. Surprisingly, this mode of travel was most prevalent during the 1920s and 1930s, a little-known fact that belies modern perceptions. In the roaring 20s and the following decade, America was swept up in the allure of the automobile.

The first whispers of this enchantment were heard in 1899 when a bicycle artisan from Massachusetts unveiled their creation, with the first gas powered vehicle. However, it wasn't until 1908, with the advent of the Ford Model T, that vehicles were mass-produced. By 1913, Ford had taken the reins of the industry, manufacturing a staggering 485,000 of the total 606,124 motor vehicles produced worldwide. This feat was made possible by the moving assembly line, a spellbinding invention that took root at Ford's Highland Park plant in Michigan. If you seek to delve even deeper into the history of the automobile industry, the History Channel hold many a tale to tell. The rise of the automobile industry marked the advent of early ridesharing, known as hitchhiking. As vehicles became mass-produced, owning a car became more affordable for the average person. However, the Great Depression of 1929 brought about a dark cloud over the industry. Many car owners were unable to afford fuel for their vehicles, causing a slump in new car sales and widespread layoffs among workers. In a strategic move to maintain their positions, major automobile companies such as Ford, GM, and Chrysler laid off their own workers, decreased production, and slashed prices. These tactics helped them weather the Great Depression, and since then, they have continued to produce vehicles that shape the world we live in today. As the Great Depression cast a shadow over the land, hordes of souls found themselves uprooted and adrift, with no solace to be found in the comforts of sustenance and fuel.

From the ashes of despair rose the practice of hitchhiking, a humble means of traversing the unknown. The term itself was first inked in the annals of history in 1923, within the pages of "The Nation". With no clear path ahead, many took to wandering, following train tracks or thumbing for a ride in hopes of finding a way out of the darkness and into the light of opportunity. In the land of abundance, where those blessed with vehicles and the wealth to fuel them roamed, there existed a kinship with those less fortunate. Hitchhikers, with their tales of struggle and survival, found solace in the generosity of those who offered them a ride. John Steinbeck’s character Tom Joad famously hitchhiked his way his home when he was released from prison in The Grapes of Wrath. As the 1930s dawned, a curious fondness for hitchhiking began to stir among the Europeans. This trend soon became a vital lifeline for remote hamlets in far-flung nations like Nepal. Today, even Albania claims to be a haven for hitchhikers, beckoning wanderers with open arms. In Germany and the Netherlands, designated hitchhiking spots have emerged, akin to bus stops. These havens offer a safer alternative for travelers along bustling highways, shielding them from harm's way (though hitchhiking on the Autobahn remains illegal).

Once upon a time, in the tumultuous 1940s, the United States government sought to conserve vital resources and channel them towards their crusade against the German army. To this end, everyday commodities such as gasoline, butter, and sugar were rationed, much to the chagrin of commoners. Seeking to promote carpooling as an act of patriotism, the government launched an advertising crusade to encourage citizens to share rides and conserve precious fuel. In the aftermath of the war, the FBI, under the watchful eye of J. Edgar Hoover, launched a campaign against hitchhiking, striking fear into the hearts of drivers and passengers alike. What was once a noble endeavor, an act of national pride, was now portrayed as a perilous journey, fraught with the risk of abduction and murder.

The tale of taxis traces back to the 17th century, where horse-drawn carriages held the reins of transportation. But as time galloped on, the wheels of change turned, and horses were replaced by gas powered cars. In the concrete jungle of urban life, the new taxis provided a cleaner and safer way to travel, replacing the risks of diseases and filth the horses brought along. Yet, the taxis' role evolved beyond just transportation, becoming a medium for covert messages during the Prohibition era. However, the wheels of fate took a darker turn in the 1970s when crime rates surged in places like New York City, turning the once-safe profession of taxi driving into a perilous one. Drivers, fearing for their safety, started refusing to pick up certain passengers. Licensing fees increased in the 1980s, leaving many drivers unable to own their own cars, and paving the way for taxicab companies like the Yellow Checker Cab Company. In the midst of the 21st century, a revolution in transportation emerged with the advent of UBER and LYFT. These enchanted ride-sharing companies, accessible solely by a magical application on one's smartphone, quickly upended the traditional yellow cab companies that had reigned supreme in major cities.

Unlike their counterparts, who charged rates based on distance, UBER and LYFT leveraged the power of technology to offer users better value. By adjusting their rates according to the time of day - lower during slower periods and higher during busy times with more drivers vying for pickups - they won the hearts of many a traveler. With the rise of the smartphone, executives in need of swift city travel found booking a ride-share on their phone app a seamless process, even while on a call with their boss.

Yet, for those who lacked access to this magic, finding traditional taxi companies became a challenge. As the world moves towards a digital age, some companies have recognized the need to ensure that everyone can access essential services, regardless of their technological literacy. For the elderly, this is especially crucial as most of them do not use smartphones. Tremp, a company that emerged just in time, has come up with a solution to this challenge. With their innovative service, users can simply call or text the company's phone number, and their dispatchers will leverage the platforms of ride-hailing giants like UBER and LYFT to schedule a ride. By using these platforms, drivers are thoroughly vetted and background-checked. Once the dispatcher confirms the ride, they provide you with all the necessary information about the car and the driver who will be picking you up, either via text or call. This service is a lifesaver for those who choose not to own a smartphone, enabling them to get around quickly and efficiently.

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