For anyone looking to grab a lift from Sutton into Montreal, there’s no need to worry about making a sign. Frédéric Gauld has that part covered.
Gauld is the owner of Round Top Bagels, a bagel shop and café on Rue Principale Sud in Sutton. He has recently turned the shop into what he hopes will become a regional ride- sharing hub, with a brightly coloured sign announcing ride requests for Montreal, Cowansville, Knowlton, Dunham, Frelighsburg, Granby, Sherbrooke, and (just for fun) Cancun, with Bromont coming soon.
“The way it works is that someone who is looking for a lift for Montreal will come in, turn the [Montreal] sign, put a little sign on their table and have a bagel and use the wifi while they wait,” says Gauld. “A driver can see the sign, come in and decide whether to offer a ride to the person waiting. If the driver decides they don’t want to take the person for whatever reason, they can leave without that person even knowing.”
Both the driver and the passenger have to sign a register (“If we have a record of who left with whom to where, we think that will discourage people with bad intentions,” says Gauld). They are left to negotiate the exact drop-off location and payment, if any, between themselves. Since posting about the rideshare hub on social media last week, Gauld says he has received calls from like-minded businesses in the region, and hopes that a regional network of “carpool cafés” will eventually be created.
Although some municipalities in the region, notably Bromont, have moved to improve public transit in recent years, it’s still difficult to get from one town to another without access to a car. Drivers travelling from Montreal to and from Cowansville or Frelighsburg may post their plans on rideshare booking website AmigoExpress or on one of several Facebook groups, but there’s no guarantee of finding a ride on a given day. Gauld says he is aiming to create a “community solution” to the transport problem, an idea that has been on his mind for years.
“It’s so frustrating to see there is no transit in the region, and yet we have all of these nearly-empty cars going back and forth to Montreal,” he says. “Even if we did invest in a bus system, we’d be adding more pollution, but we don’t need to do that when there are more than enough empty seats to transport everyone.”
“There are plenty of adults and teenagers in the region who don”t have a car or a driver’s licence for whatever reason…and if we want to keep young people in the region, we need to think about youth mobility,” he adds. “It’s both a labour issue and a community vitality issue. It would be interesting to move away from the idea that you must have a car to live here.”
In the long run, Gauld hopes to make ride-sharing “a part of the culture” around the region. “I want to help people move, and if it has repercussions around the region, then that’s super,” he says. “If it works, people will start to imitate it.”