Springing up more or less spontaneously in different parts of the world in response to rising costs of car ownership, carsharing offers you the convenience of a private car through cooperative ownership. Increasingly this new form of ridesharing is becoming the transit means of choice for eco-minded urban dwellers.

Rising gas prices and urban sprawl have contributed to poorly-funded public transportation, long commutes and crowded freeways. Today, there is an alternative. Carshare programs are sprouting up in such cities as Portland, Oregon; Denver, Colorado; Chicago, Illinois; and Boston, Massachusetts. There are more than 600 cities in the world that offer some form of cooperative vehicle programs.

Hidden costs of car ownership
While owning your own car can provide a sense of freedom and mobility, this mobility comes at a steep price. This dream of owning a car can become a real life nightmare. Hidden costs include car maintenance, parking, insurance and fuel. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2001 the average American household spent 19.3 percent of every dollar earned on transportation—and these costs are climbing. Today, private vehicle ownership is the second largest expense for most families; more than three times the cost of health care.

Eco benefits to sharing
Research shows that cooperative car ownership has multiple eco benefits:

  • Less Driving: You can minimize your carbon footprint. Each cooperative takes 15 other cars off the road. Many coop members have reported that they walk and bike more and also use available public transit.
  • Reduced Traffic Congestion: Fewer cars on the road means cleaner air and less time spent in traffic jams.  Car sharing encourages walking, carpooling and the use of public transportation. You can take the time back wasted in traffic.
  • Healthy Neighborhoods: Community-oriented living reduces urban sprawl and offers families a healthier lifestyle choice. You’ll walk more, meet your neighbors and find local shops that get overlooked traveling in cars.

How it works
Carsharing provides members with access to a fleet of vehicles on an hourly basis. Once you become a member, you can reserve any car you like in advance and drive it for as long as your reservation. It is not like a car pool because it is “yours” for that amount of time. It is not like a car rental because you pay by the hour.

Carsharing members have access to different cars to suit their needs. Onboard computers tally the number of hours and miles that you drive on each trip that you take. The amount you are charged for each trip is determined by what driving plan you are on.

FlexCar — www.flexcar.com
I-Go —www.igo.cars.org
E RideShare—www.erideshare.com

Bonnie Siefers is owner/designer of Jonano, A Division of Sami Designs, LLC, www.jonano.com. She can be reached at (877) ECO-9753.