Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Car sharing 101

This is a great (but long) NY Times article about the history of car sharing. It starts out with a family that decided to not renew their lease on their SUV, and instead embrace the car share. I am not sure why, but considering the affordable programs out there, city dwellers should be using car share all the time.

MY NEIGHBOR JOE EMBRACED THE ZEITGEIST, or was embraced by it, shortly before Thanksgiving a couple of years ago when he decided to bid adieu to his S.U.V., a two-and-a-half ton specimen that was a pain to park, got only slightly better mileage than a cement mixer and bore a brand name that meant to evoke, through misspelling, a famously resilient tribe of Berber-speaking desert nomads. Joe replaced the car, more or less, with nothing, or rather, with an Idea, which he carried around in his wallet on a plastic card, lawn-green, embedded with a computer chip and prominently imprinted with a playfully mellow looking “Z,” for Zipcar — an upstart company bent on altering the primal bond between Americans and their vehicles.

Despite the fact that Joe took the subway to work and lived within walking distance of plenty of grocers, restaurants, drugstores and dry cleaners, going carless wasn’t a simple choice. Having one had become a habit, and Joe had no particular desire to renounce cars altogether. He liked feeling he could hit the road at a moment’s notice if he so desired. There would always be times he needed a car, and there would be times — when, for instance, a child was sick — that knowing one was available provided peace of mind. What to do, then, Joe? Buy? Lease? Rent? This is where the zeitgeist spoke up. Joe decided to share.

As a car free person living in a Midwest city dominated by cars (even though we have a good bike network), I find that car sharing is another necessary tool in the woodshed. Every morning I wake up I realize that I have options in regards to transit. While the car share is best used for short trips, it can be a life saver for those times that a car will be the best option.

For those in the Twin Cities I recommend that you give Hour car a try, and for those of you elsewhere, find out what is in your neck of the woods.

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