i GO Car Sharing

The Logic of Car Sharing

(first published Feb 3, 2012)

by Douglas Black, enerficiency On The Road

Earlier this year we ran a short piece on the enerficiency blog titled “Pros and Cons of Car Sharing”.

There are a couple of schools of thought on this.  One is that if you are giving up a vehicle, as in selling it or donating to the CarTalk Guys, and even become a car-free household, utilizing the car-share to shop at Ikea – it’s a good thing.

On the other hand, if you had no vehicle, and were tired of pestering your neighbor to cart you and Fluffy to the vet or what have you, then it is a net gain to vehicular traffic.

But as we did research for this piece we discovered that this movement is heading in several directions, and it seems to be the wave of the (perhaps distant) future.  Some companies offer various models, including luxury and sports cars as well as family vans.  Zipcar is one such provider.  They are always popping up on my screen, presumably because my online researching has left a clickstream of cookies as wide as Lake Michigan and the marketeers are just following the trail.

Being as we Americans are so fiercely independent, it almost seems unpatriotic to hand over your keys (unless you’re drunk and your buddies are also relieving you of your shoes).  The idea of “my car, don’t touch the radio” is even stronger if you are a native Detroiter, as I am.

But if you cannot afford to buy a complete shop full of power tools and drill presses, wouldn’t it be great to be part “owner” of the rental shop, all your grinding, buffing and drilling supplies at your disposal for a small fee?  That seems to be the basic idea behind car sharing.

Some have also compared the concept to the airline industry.  I needed some hand holding to get my head around this one, so bear with me.  The airline industry has a “fleet” of vehicles which are expensive.  The fleet has huge upfront costs, regular and pricey maintenance/insurance/debt service, and the vehicles need a place to sleep when you aren’t using them.  I don’t know about you, but I personally cannot cover that expense.  The airline industry will cover all of that, fuel up the vehicles for us, and for a fee they will let us use them.  Not a pilot?  No problem, Big Daddy Airliner will provide a pilot for you.

With Car Sharing, the company offers everything the airlines offer, but you can be your own pilot! (Cars don’t fly, by the way.)  (Sept 13, 2012 update – They do.  I am working on a blog about it)

Folks in other countries value their independent mobility as well, but they may be more open to the community concept.

ENERSPEC conducted a worldwide poll January 31, 2012 asking the question “Would you give up your car to share community cars?”  Although not a truly scientific survey, the results were eye-opening as responses came in from Morocco to Malaysia and more than 20 other countries around the globe.

Younger responders less likely to give up ownership of their car.

One third of total responders said that they would be willing to give up their vehicle to share a community fleet.

Not surprisingly, younger people were more likely to hold onto their own set of keys than responders over 40 years of age.   The divide between men and women, however, was not as distant; for women twice as many said they would keep their car while men would rather hold their own keys by a ratio of three to one.

Further, affluent drivers, those indicating household income higher than $80k annually trended toward sharing a community fleet.

Comments came in as well. A woman responded from the US noting that lack of a utility truck or delivery van as part of the “shared” mix would be a deal breaker.

According to the Federal Highway Administration (April 4, 2011), the typical driver between the ages of 20-54 travels around 15,000 miles per year by car.  Now if your typical Zipper travels less than 5,500 miles after signing on to car sharing, that could be a reduction in emissions.  However, if the so-called Zipper has signed on simply because the bicycle is getting tiresome, then further study is needed here.

My friend Dave Quilty, blogger and publisher of The Good Human blog points out in his piece “Finding & Using A Car Sharing Service Near You”  that there are cars ready to “grab and go” in more than 100 cities around the world.

The Good Human cites Zipcar as one provider whose fee will include up to 180 miles of driving.  That’s more than just running your Spaniel to the vet for “happy times”.

I suppose it boils down to geography and the supporting infrastructure.  While I lived in Detroit, having no car meant you were a needy friend, had blisters on your feet or led the solitary life of a hermit.  Detroit has no real forms of public transportation, sidewalks are deathtraps, and distances between destinations are definitely not pedestrian friendly.  Few people would give up their precious car, and placing cars in lots scattered about in a city known for unusually high auto theft is, well, unwise.  Having no car in Detroit is not logical.

Here in Chicago it makes perfect sense for those who want to eliminate the ongoing expense of insurance, maintenance and fuel,  as well as the storage/parking responsibility.  Richard Kosmacher, Business Development Manager of I-GO Car Sharing in Chicago says members basically fall into one of three categories.  “They (I-GO members) went from two cars down to one and occasionally need another, or they sold their only car, OR it is simply an improved quality of life issue for those who had no vehicle of their own in the first place” say Kosmacher.

I’ve noticed cars are ready to go all around town in various lots, conveniently located near train or bus or subway stops.  I-Go Car Sharing even has a new member bus pass deal that gets you to and from your grocery getter.  This holistic approach to transportation sounds like a good idea to me.

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Having more than 30 years experience in the green and sustainable building field, Douglas Black has dedicated the past 20 years to energy efficiency in the built environment.

Mr. Black is a high performance car enthusiast, always with an ear to the pavement for what’s fast and new.  He began blogging enerficiency On The Road in 2001, and now continues reporting from Auto Shows and Swap Meets at his Hot Flying Rats! blog – flyingratz.wordpress.com

He also uses his MagicEightBall to predict sporting outcomes and shares on his blog M8B4Cast.wix.com/sportsblog.

Photography is a lifelong passion for Douglas Black, and while not capturing enthusiastic smiles at Wrigley Field he captures moments in the built environment.

And in his spare time, he works on getting that Captains License, expecting to retire on the water one day, taking photos.

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