Chicago's Own Carshare Program
Corporations and technology centers are scrambling to introduce new ways to have your cake and eat it too, or, to have your car and protect the environment too.
One solution is to introduce a concept that addresses the environmental, financial and social problems of automobiles by changing the way people think of car ownership. Instead of car ownership, individuals and businesses can supplement their transportation options with car sharing.
The concept is to encourage members to use a vehicle for the shortest time to reduce air pollution, thereby redefining the car as a mode of last resort. Car sharing was created in Europe over fifteen years ago and has been successful around the world as a transportation alternative.
Several non-profit and for-profit car share companies now exist is several major cities around the world. One such company, I-GO Car Sharing (www.igocars.org), is a non-profit organization in Chicago that buys and maintains cars for a member base of almost 2000 people and growing.
How does it work?
It is a simple idea that friends or neighbors can share the cost of owning a car and defray both high upfront costs for purchasing an automobile plus the high long-term costs such as insurance, parking, maintenance and depreciation.
In Chicago, a member joins I-GO because it is cost-effective. Once they sign up for a small one-time fee ($75), they receive a Smart Card and orientation packet in the mail. They can then make an online reservation for any of the 50 fuel-efficient cars strategically placed throughout the city. It doesn't matter if they want the car at midnight or on a major holiday. The car is always sitting in the parking lot awaiting their arrival. When their reservation starts, they walk up to the car and swipe the Smart Card on the rear window. This unlocks the doors. The member then enters the vehicle, retrieves the keys from the glove compartment, enters their pin number on a key pad and they are on their way. Technology records the time and miles driven, and a bill is automatically generated.
Most individuals opt for the Standard Plan at $6/hour, 50 cents per mile. Insurance, gas, the "home" parking spot, maintenance 24-hour roadside assistance are all included. Members are asked to return the car to its "home" parking spot when they are finished and be courteous to other members by returning on time and filling up the gas tank (using the car's gas card charged to I-GO) if the tank is under 1/4 full.
Does it work?
Studies in the US have shown that each car share vehicle removes between 5 to 20 cars from the road. Half of I-GO Car Sharing members say that the non-profit hourly rental program has allowed them to sell their car or postpone buying a new car. Even in auto-centric America, car sharing is becoming an increasingly popular way to decrease traffic congestion and carbon dioxide emissions.
"I never thought I'd be able to live without a car, with I-GO it's easy," says I-GO member Laura Petrie.
Members like to use the service for short-term trips such as grocery shopping and even for going out on dates. Business members take clients out on site visits and travel to the occasional suburban meeting, saving more than 25% on their transportation budgets for parking and rental cars.
"If I go to a public meeting in the evening, for example, I can take the car home and return it in the morning for a very little expense...I-GO couldn't be easier!" explains Farr Associate Principal (an architecture firm) and I-GO member Kevin Pierce. I-GO is the perfect solution for someone who needs a car for just part of a day and is traveling under 50 miles roundtrip.
What kind of cars do you have?
Car share companies have varying standards, but in Chicago all of the cars must be fuel-efficient. Currently, the cars are Honda Civics, Civic Hybrids and Elements. In 2006, we hope to branch out and obtain different types of vehicles and different brands.
I-GO Car Sharing is providing a model for expanding transportation choices for other cities in the U.S. and Canada by hosting forums to share best practices. As I-GO Car Sharing continues to grow, it becomes more efficient for members to leave their cars at home. Visit for more details.
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