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View Full Version : Car sharing--Have you tried it?


BTinSF
Jan 22, 2007, 8:38 AM
Car sharing. Anybody else participate? Me, I'm with ZipCar. They've got a nice Honda Element a half block from my condo in SF.

Car-sharing catching on with Bay Area drivers
Firms provide autos for those who don't want hassle of ownership
- Michael Cabanatuan, Chronicle Staff Writer
Monday, January 22, 2007

For economic and environmental reasons, Tara Hunt wants to avoid buying a car, but sometimes she needs to drive from San Francisco across the Bay Bridge to Ikea or Home Depot. Keith Kamisugi finds it a hassle to own a car in San Francisco -- especially trying to find a parking place near his home -- but he has to drive to business meetings and on occasional errands.

For Hunt and Kamisugi -- and thousands of other Bay Area residents -- car-sharing is the answer to that dilemma.

"Not owning a car in San Francisco is a big benefit to me,'' said Kamisugi, 36, who lives in the parking-deprived Inner Richmond District. Car-sharing "fills the gap between my use of public transportation and the times when I need a car.''

So many people in the Bay Area are interested in car-sharing that two for-profit companies have joined nonprofit pioneer City CarShare in the market -- and all three are surviving and growing.

"This is the only city in the country -- possibly in the world -- that has three car-share companies operating at the same time,'' said Dan Shifrin, regional vice president for Zipcar. "It speaks volumes about San Francisco.''

Rick Hutchinson, chief executive officer for City CarShare, estimates that about 13,000 people actively participate in Bay Area car-sharing operations. About 4,000 joined in the past year.

"It's been a great year for car-sharing,'' he said.

And all three operations expect their memberships to grow substantially in the coming year as they collectively put hundreds more cars into service.

Car-sharing services offer their members an organized and high-tech system for using cars for short-term trips, charging hourly or daily rates and sometimes a per-mile fee. Gasoline, insurance and maintenance are included. Members book the cars online or over the phone, pick them up at locations scattered across their cities, and return them when they're done.

Made popular in German and Swiss cities in the mid-1980s, car-sharing now exists in 600 cities on four continents with about 350,000 people using 11,000 vehicles. In the United States, where car-sharing was introduced in the late 1990s, about 102,000 people shared 2,558 cars as of July, said Susan Shaheen, a UC Berkeley research scientist who tracks car-sharing. Initial estimates for December show those numbers rising.

City CarShare opened the first car-sharing service in the Bay Area in 2001 with a fleet of eye-catching green Volkswagen Beetles that have since been retired. In 2005, the two national, for-profit firms -- Zipcar and Flexcar -- moved into the market.

Representatives of the three firms say that they're doing well and that there's plenty of room in the San Francisco market for all of the companies.

"I don't really feel like we're competing. We're helping each other out,'' Shifrin said. "We all have the same product: cars; we all charge hourly; and we all want to remove cars from the streets and support public transportation. We have more in common than we have differences.''

Officials at the other car-sharing operations agree. City CarShare's mission, Hutchinson said, is not to make money but to reduce car ownership, and pollution, congestion and oil dependence. City CarShare laid the groundwork and established the market that attracted the two for-profits, he said.

"When the other companies came to town, we were pleased that they were legitimizing the mission,'' he said. "And the fact that they have brought additional resources has benefited car-sharing.''

Flexcar spokesman John Williams said the companies have their differences -- mainly rate structures and car-sharing locations -- but have worked with each other to build interest in sharing cars instead of owning them.

"We all share a healthy sense of competition,'' he said, "but I think there are enough people out there who don't even know about car-sharing to support all three.''

San Francisco's dense population, dearth of parking, high gasoline prices, public transit systems and environmental activism make it a strong market for car-sharing. With Berkeley and Oakland sharing some of those characteristics, all three companies have cars and members in those cities as well.

For members, convenience is key. Hunt, 33, who owns an Internet marketing consulting business, lives and works South of Market. The Toronto native is used to living without a car but found that San Francisco's transit and taxi services often made that difficult. So she and her boyfriend decided to try car-sharing, and picked Zipcar because she saw a lot of its cars in her neighborhood.

"I saw that Zipcars were everywhere,'' she said. "And they had the coolest cars. ... It's one of the best things we've done.''

Hunt pays $250 a month on a prepaid plan that gives her discounted rates of $7 an hour or $55 a day for most cars. Zipcar charges higher rates for cars like the BMW 325i or the Mini Cooper convertible. It's enough to fit in not only the trips to the East Bay for furniture and home-improvement shopping but also grocery shopping, visits to clients on the Peninsula and even an occasional out-of-town weekend trip.

Several Zipcar sites are within easy walking distance of her home and work, Hunt said, and getting a car hasn't been a problem.

"I can't always get exactly the car I want -- I like Priuses, and they're popular,'' she said. "But I can always get a car when I want.''

Linda Johnson, 40, director of a nonprofit arts organization, is equally satisfied with City CarShare, which has a different rate structure, charging $10 monthly dues, $4 an hour and 44 cents a mile. The per-mile charge, Hutchinson said, is designed to encourage shorter trips so more members can use the cars.

Johnson and her husband, who live in a small Mission District apartment, drive to the grocery store, to pick up friends at the airport and to go hiking. They spend between $30 and $75 a month -- less than insurance used to cost when she owned a car.

"The prices are very low,'' she said. "When I tell people how little we spend, their jaws drop.''

Shaheen believes car-sharing has a big future, not only in the Bay Area but also across the country as the concept spreads and companies reach out to suburbia, lower-income communities and other specialized markets. She's projected that as many as 2 million people nationwide could eventually become car-sharing customers.

Officials with car-sharing companies are equally optimistic, though they know it goes against the national culture and tradition.

"We're battling against the American dream,'' said Williams. "But we've found tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of people who would rather not own a car.''

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URL: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2007/01/22/CARSHARE.TMP

J. Will
Jan 22, 2007, 6:48 PM
I thought about joining one, but really, Toronto's public transit is good enough that I don't see when I'd ever need to use it - even remote locations in the distant suburbs have public transit. Though it would save me some time on trips to the suburbs, I only make maybe three such trips per month. Within city limits the entire city is blanketed with public transit, and the frequent routes run at 2 to 5 minute headways. Plus you can easily flag down a cab on any major street - usually in no more than a minute or two.

There would be no point to a car, even occassionally.

Cirrus
Jan 22, 2007, 6:54 PM
There are about half a dozen Flex or Zip cars within 3 blocks of my apartment. It's great for that occasional trip to Target or IKEA.

Yeah, I could get there via transit, but what if I want to carry a bookshelf home with me? It doesn't happen very often, but it happens. Car sharing takes care of that occasional niche need.

headcase
Jan 22, 2007, 7:06 PM
There are about half a dozen Flex or Zip cars within 3 blocks of my apartment. It's great for that occasional trip to Target or IKEA.

Yeah, I could get there via transit, but what if I want to carry a bookshelf home with me? It doesn't happen very often, but it happens. Car sharing takes care of that occasional niche need.

Ditto, I can take transit where ever I need to go, but for some trips (such as picking up the x-mas tree), just won't fly on the CTA.

SSDD

BTinSF
Jan 22, 2007, 7:13 PM
There would be no point to a car, even occassionally.

When you buy a new TV, you going to lug it home on public transit or pay for delivery? Not so long ago, I bought a shotgun and couldn't see getting on Muni with what could only be a firearm while going to and from the gunshop in a cab would have been a substantial expense 'cause it was nowhere near where I live. Even for runs to CostCo, public trans doesn't cut it. Cabs can work but they can also be more expensive and less flexible. And in SF, it would ruin my budget for a week to think about taking a cab across the Bay Bridge to Ikea or down the freeway to Target and it would be a huge struggle to get home with purchases on BART.

Then there are the runs over to the Marin Headlands or Muir Woods or wherever I want to take a quick trip out of the city for a few hours . . . .

Frisco_Zig
Jan 22, 2007, 7:41 PM
When you buy a new TV, you going to lug it home on public transit or pay for delivery? Not so long ago, I bought a shotgun and couldn't see getting on Muni with what could only be a firearm while going to and from the gunshop in a cab would have been a substantial expense 'cause it was nowhere near where I live. Even for runs to CostCo, public trans doesn't cut it. Cabs can work but they can also be more expensive and less flexible. And in SF, it would ruin my budget for a week to think about taking a cab across the Bay Bridge to Ikea or down the freeway to Target and it would be a huge struggle to get home with purchases on BART.

Then there are the runs over to the Marin Headlands or Muir Woods or wherever I want to take a quick trip out of the city for a few hours . . . .

a need in a City like San Francisco that is in that awkward state of being sort of dense enough to make owning a car a pain but also not dense enough for truely good transit

Seems like living in Toronto they have better transit options

MayDay
Jan 22, 2007, 7:56 PM
Proud member of CityWheels in Cleveland: http://www.mycitywheels.com/

I usually take public transportation, and my S.O. owns a car but there have a been a few times where I've used CityWheels services.

Cirrus
Jan 22, 2007, 8:26 PM
People, pay attention.

It's NOT ABOUT THE ABSENCE OF QUALITY TRANSIT.

It's about some things being easier with a car, even if there is good transit. Even in New York; Hong Kong, Tokyo or Paris, some errands to some places are most efficiently handled with a car.

Cars are not evil. They're wonderfully useful tools. It's over-reliance on them that is troublesome. Using one on a periodic basis for occasional specific errands is not over-reliance. To deny the usefulness of cars in all situations regardless of specifics is every bit as narrow minded and naïve as it would be to suggest cars are always the best mode.

martarider
Jan 22, 2007, 8:34 PM
I am a happy Flexcar member in Atlanta, their newest city (launched last fall). Just used it for an IKEA run this weekend. :)

BTW, a question for folks in more established car-sharing cities... do you have a sense on roughly how many hours a day a car needs to be in use for it to be considered a successful, viable location? I'm trying to gauge the early performance of the Atlanta service... a number of the cars are doing pretty well, but then there are some that seem to sit unused for most of the day.

_J_
Jan 22, 2007, 9:31 PM
Have been a car-sharing, ownership-free driver for years now. I love my particular organization (City CarShare (http://www.citycarshare.org/)) because
1) it's a non-profit (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/501%28c%29) (I'm a commie! whoopee!)
2) the cars are sexy and numerous (can you say MiniCooper, Scion xA & xB, Yaris, and three Prius within ten blocks?)
3) the rates rule (consider this $2/hour late night laugh at BT da ZipCar zombie ;-)
And in general, this is the way car usage SHOULD be. Instead millions of highly technical pieces of industrial machinery taking up space, unused and unloved for 60-99% of every day, a much smaller number of machines is used a much higher percentage of the time. Spectacular! Everyone should sell their car right now and switch. GO!

BTinSF
Jan 22, 2007, 10:11 PM
a need in a City like San Francisco that is in that awkward state of being sort of dense enough to make owning a car a pain but also not dense enough for truely good transit

Seems like living in Toronto they have better transit options

I don't care how good the transit options are. You can only lug so much or so big a purchase on public transit. Public transit only goes so far out of town (almost by definition, not far enough to be "out of town"). In an extremely dense and gridlocked city like New York, I might choose to use a cab even though it were more expensive than the $16 a ZipCar would cost me for 2 hours simply because driving is such h*ll, but that's not the case in Toronto (I've been there) or any other North American city I've seen beyond New York. Even Chicago is driveable if you need to transport a lot more than just yourself.

And believe me, I'm a public transit advocate. I live carless in SF, get a transit pass every month I'm there and rely on it plus the occasional use of ZipCar.

BTinSF
Jan 22, 2007, 10:22 PM
3) the rates rule (consider this $2/hour late night laugh at BT da ZipCar zombie ;-)
And in general, this is the way car usage SHOULD be.

Laugh all you want, but CityCarShare charges a $10 monthly fee and a $300 refundable security deposit. That's a minimum of $120 a year plus the deposit. I'm likely to use a ZipCar no more than 3 times a YEAR. I'm a member mostly because it gives me options, not because I'm a heavy user. And ZipCar gives me "bonus miles" on my AMTRAK credit card.

I'd love to see CityCarShare offer a plan with no monthly fee for us low-usage folks, but they don't. Capitalism does. So, as usual, Capitalism satisfies the customers and wins by providing car usage the way it REALLY should be.

Chicago Shawn
Jan 23, 2007, 1:17 AM
Laugh all you want, but CityCarShare charges a $10 monthly fee and a $300 refundable security deposit. That's a minimum of $120 a year plus the deposit. I'm likely to use a ZipCar no more than 3 times a YEAR. I'm a member mostly because it gives me options, not because I'm a heavy user. And ZipCar gives me "bonus miles" on my AMTRAK credit card.

I'd love to see CityCarShare offer a plan with no monthly fee for us low-usage folks, but they don't. Capitalism does. So, as usual, Capitalism satisfies the customers and wins by providing car usage the way it REALLY should be.

Agreed. Car sharing programs fill that last void for most city residents to truley live car-free. Let's face it, not everything is centralized in the city, and even jobs in the city core sometimes require visits to remote branch locations where transit does not run. Bulk purhases are another thing as well. These programs are wonderful and allow even more poeple to live without a car when they could not do it otherwise.

I'm pretty sure I-go car sharing in Chicgao has no monthly fee, just one $75 annual fee and I think its $8 /hr for rental with no charge for early morning hours. Perhaps someone who is in the system can back on that.

headcase
Jan 23, 2007, 3:57 AM
I'm pretty sure I-go car sharing in Chicgao has no monthly fee, just one $75 annual fee and I think its $8 /hr for rental with no charge for early morning hours. Perhaps someone who is in the system can back on that.

The 75 is actually a one time membership feel, the yearly is 25. And then there are a bunch of options as far as what you pay/use and you can switch between them monthly. My wife is currently using the "standard" 6/hr + .50 a mile. After that there is 8.25/hr w/25 miles per hour included. They there are a bunch of different plans where you can buy a block of hours/miles for a set rate per month.

SSDD

zilfondel
Jan 23, 2007, 4:30 AM
I thought about getting Flexcar in Portland, but decided to buy a scooter instead and use it, walk, ride the bus, streetcar, or bicycle. For big stuff I "coerce" my friends into helping me by paying them in beer. Seems to work...

Steely Dan
Jan 23, 2007, 5:54 AM
Car sharing programs fill that last void for most city residents to truley live car-free. Let's face it, not everything is centralized in the city, and even jobs in the city core sometimes require visits to remote branch locations where transit does not run. These programs are wonderful and allow even more poeple to live without a car when they could not do it otherwise.


that's me in a nutshell. i have no use for car ownership being that i live in the city and commute up to my job in evanston via the train, but i do need to get out to far flung job sites across the vast empire of chicagoland every so often and PT is not really the way to go when you're using words like "far flung" and "vast empire". so for the one or two times a month i need access to a car to get to these places in a timely and efficient manner, I-GO fills the gap perfectly for me, and my company picks up the tab to boot!

i've been an I-GO member for a year and a half now and i have to say it's a beautiful thing.

J. Will
Jan 23, 2007, 4:22 PM
People, pay attention.

It's NOT ABOUT THE ABSENCE OF QUALITY TRANSIT.

It's about some things being easier with a car, even if there is good transit. Even in New York; Hong Kong, Tokyo or Paris, some errands to some places are most efficiently handled with a car.

Cars are not evil. They're wonderfully useful tools. It's over-reliance on them that is troublesome. Using one on a periodic basis for occasional specific errands is not over-reliance. To deny the usefulness of cars in all situations regardless of specifics is every bit as narrow minded and naïve as it would be to suggest cars are always the best mode.

Nobody said it had anything to do with the absence of quality transit, nobody said some errands aren't more efficiently handled with a car, and nobody said cars are evil.

Cirrus
Jan 23, 2007, 7:41 PM
Nobody said it had anything to do with the absence of quality transit

Perhaps I misunderstood you when you said
I thought about joining one, but really, Toronto's public transit is good enough that I don't see when I'd ever need to use it

Or perhaps I misunderstood Frisco Zig when he said
a need in a City like San Francisco that is in that awkward state of being sort of dense enough to make owning a car a pain but also not dense enough for truely good transit. Seems like living in Toronto they have better transit options

Please explain what you actually meant.

J. Will
Jan 24, 2007, 8:19 PM
I was saying that I don't see any reason for ME to join a car-sharing program. I wasn't saying that I don't see any reason for anyone to join, or that cars are "evil". I can't see using such a service more than a few times a year.

crisp444
Jan 24, 2007, 8:49 PM
I've been using Zipcar in Boston for the last six months and I love it! For me, once or twice per month it is simply more convenient to drive than to take the subway or bus. Besides, Zipcar is often cheaper than taxis. I've gotten a few friends of mine to join as well.

Cirrus
Jan 24, 2007, 9:52 PM
I use it probably 6 or 7 times per year. It's a real easy choice because the city subsidizes the annual fee, so all I pay is the hourly cost.

MSPtoMKE
Jan 25, 2007, 5:07 AM
Well, i was thinking about signing up for a while, but had kind of shelved the idea. Anyways, I just signed up for Hourcar here (The name is in all caps, but i for some reason i resist using all caps on this forum, particularly about transportation issues. ;)) Just today at work i saw someone using it and she said she liked it a lot, so that is good. One reason i didn't immediately sign up is that i don't live super close to a hub, but a 15 minute walk or an easy bus ride will just make it so i only use it when i really need it, i guess. It isn't a very large operation here yet, so the locations are still limited, but expanding, it seems. There was a an application fee, but half of it goes to your first uses. i picked the $5 a month plan with something like $6 or $7 dollars per hour, i think.

SSLL
Jan 28, 2007, 6:24 AM
Yep, I used Zipcar in Toronto, and Streetcar in London. Very convenient

Nouvellecosse
Feb 2, 2007, 5:25 PM
Unfortunately, Halifax is still working on its new service, and I don't know when it'll be open. :(

It sure seems like an interesting option to me though.

Marcu
Feb 2, 2007, 6:03 PM
Can someone post the general rate breakdown for these types of services?

seaskyfan
Feb 2, 2007, 6:07 PM
I used FlexCar in Seattle a few years ago when I was living on the west side of Puget Sound and commuting in by ferry. I worked in Downtown Seattle and I used the FlexCar primarily for work when I needed to go out of the city for meetings or funder visits (I worked for a small nonprofit). It worked great as long as I could plan ahead. I think now their network of cars is extensive enough so that you can be more spontaneous.

seaskyfan
Feb 2, 2007, 6:09 PM
Can someone post the general rate breakdown for these types of services?

Here's a link to the FlexCar Seattle rates for individual plans:

http://www.flexcar.com/Default.aspx?tabid=172

BTinSF
Feb 2, 2007, 6:26 PM
^^^Zipcar charges, I believe a $50 annual fee and $8-$10/hr for using a car which includes gas and insurance (so if you don't otherwise need your own car insurance, you don't have to carry any).

Best this to do, though is go to the web sites:

http://www.zipcar.com

http://www.flexcar.com

http://www.citycarshare.org

http://mycitywheels.com

Some of them offer more than one plan (like cell phone companies do) and Zipcar, for example, varies the rates a bit depending on what kind of car you want.

SpongeG
Feb 6, 2007, 12:54 AM
Vancouver has a program like that - they call it the Car Coop

a new condo was built downtown and with purchase the owners got membership in the car sharing program as well as i think a car soley for that building

it sounds good for errands where the bus isn't practical

here is a link for the Vancouver program - http://www.cooperativeauto.net/

Rail Claimore
Feb 7, 2007, 6:39 PM
Just joined I-Go here in Chicago, and I use it to do bulk shopping and to visit friends in the burbs.