Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Reasons to Be Car Free in DC #4: Car Share...?

If I had written this post 3 years ago, just after I had joined Flexcar, there would be no questions. I loved the idea of car share. The cars were local. I didn't have to give any more money to that corrupt, derelict company known as Budget-Rent-a-Car and I took a liking to the idea of this little community of people who practically shared the same car located a block away from my house. At the time I could rent a care for 5 dollars and change per hour. Amazing! Never had to pay for gas, although every now and again you'd have to fill it up with the company card. The other users took care of the cars, bought them back on time and didn't leave paper coffee cups or dirty tissues in the cup holders or on the floor.

That nice little picture didn't last. Zipcar "merged" with Flexcar and took over operations. The prices rose immediately. Those $6.00 and $7.00 per hour rentals became $9.00 and $10.00. Until recently, renting a hybrid cost MORE than renting a regular gas car (cheaper for Zipcar to operate, but a "privilege" to drive?). Cars seem dirtier and more and more often I rent a car that's nearly empty on gas. Other members don't seem to be a part of the "community" any longer. We're all customers of the company, looking out for number 1. Typical, and I'm OK with that. But to pick up my parents from National Airport this weekend, honestly, requires a two hour rental. The car closest to my house is $9.75 an hour, or $19.50 total. I found a rental car on for the same day at $17.95; $30.30 after taxes and fees. That's for a whole day. 24 hours. Zipcar would be $72.00 for the same 24 hour period. However, the advantages of using Zipcar are I wouldn't have to pay for mileage (as long as I didn't drive over 180 miles) and I could pick-up/drop-off near my house.

I get the convenience factor, but the more cars you add per neighborhood, doesn't the idea of getting cars off the road diminish? Some residents also complain that Zipcars illegally take up public parking space on streets. I don't have a problem with that considering the aims.

The idea of car share is pretty great. The convenience almost outweighs the negatives, including, yes, price. But I find myself renting less and less, relying on my bike and the 11 bus (that means walking; ask your coworkers if you don't get it.) I guess $5.00 per hour wasn't realistic and this series is about how living without a car is great. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.