by Marisa Keller, member of 350VT’s Climate Writers Group and of 350 Brattleboro
A small crowd gathered outside of Birchgrove Baking in Montpelier at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning. They sipped free coffee, chatted with each other and admired the handsome cedar post engraved with a picture of a wagon wheel and the words THE HITCHING POST.
The Hitching Post is a new community transportation model called “coffee-pooling.” It’s a cross between carpooling and hitchhiking with some coffee perks thrown in: drivers can pick up riders at designated cafés and receive $1 coffee-pooling tokens for giving them a ride. The first two hitching posts have been installed at Birchgrove and at the Post Office Café in Worcester. Tokens can be purchased and spent at either café.
On Saturday morning, three drivers each carried one or two riders on the inaugural run to Worcester, where another small crowd awaited with doughnuts courtesy of the Post Office Café. Adam “Phoenix” Mitchell, who came up with the idea for the Hitching Post after hitchhiking back and forth from Montpelier for several months, talked about how easy it had been for him to find rides, and how much he had enjoyed getting to know his neighbors. He hopes to spread the coffee-pooling network across central Vermont and will share his designs and process with anyone who wants to establish Hitching Posts elsewhere. Grants are available from VTrans for any town interested in setting up its own Hitching Posts.
Transportation is Vermont’s largest source of carbon emissions, and reducing the number of single-occupancy cars through ridesharing could go a long way to change that. Mitchell hopes that providing visible infrastructure and the free-coffee incentive will encourage people to take part. When you can build community, support local cafés, reduce carbon emissions and get where you need to go just by raising a flag or stopping to take on a passenger, what’s not to like?