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Carshares: Helping to make the world a greener place

I’m proud to say that I have been car-free for roughly 2.5 years. There are some inconveniences but most of which I have gladly traded in for not having to worry about parking, insurance, traffic, and of course – gas prices. While everyone was complaining about rising prices this summer, I had no idea what the cost for a gallon of gas was. It’s a liberating feeling. And in my opinion, if you live in a city where it can be done, by all means, ditch the car.

Woman with Compact Car

Getting around on public transportation in San Francisco is relatively thorough and easy. In spite of this — and in spite of the fact that nearly 30% of us are car-less here — I still get asked how I do it. Public transit and taxis play a huge role, but aside from that I have two words: car share. When many people think of a “car share,” they think of a weird, hippie concept where a bunch of friends share one car. The underlying concept may be similar to this, but car sharing companies are much different. There are several (Zipcar, City Car Share, and Flexcar) that operate in most major cities. Their terms of agreement may be slightly different — i.e., some may charge by the mile while others may charge by the hour – but it’s based on the same idea: a fleet of cars in various centralized locations around cities. It’s a completely automated system that lets you “sign out” a car online and enter the vehicle with your membership card, gas cards that pay for themselves, a certain number of miles included, a yearly and monthly membership, and the luxury of not having to own a car. Sure there can be glitches — such as when someone returns the car late and you’re waiting to go to an interview. There are penalties for bad car sharing behavior, and over all the process runs pretty smoothly. When utilizing a car share, you will typically pay a yearly and/or monthly membership fee and then pay to use the car. The rates are quite reasonable. Zipcar has cars starting at around $7/hour, for example — and when you consider that gas is included, that’s not a bad deal. These costs — when compared to the price tag and hassle that comes with owning a car — are well worth it. I use my car share when I need to be somewhere exactly on time and can’t risk the bus, when I need to run errands to pick up particularly cumbersome items like dog food, or when I’m going to an area that lacks good public transit options. In San Francisco, they’re even looking to create special parking spots for car share cars as a way of “rewarding” people for good environmental behavior — and your city may have something similar. Can’t argue with that!

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