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The benefits of car sharing

35 Comments

Part III: Car Sharing 2.0 Series

Portland is arguably the birthplace of North American car sharing, so it's no surprise that we have one of the stronger car sharing markets in the country.

Just because you're a Portlander, however, doesn't mean you know about car sharing.

Here's a brief summary of how it's different from conventional car rentals:

  • Cars are available for rent by the hour*
  • You need to become a member (and usually pay a membership fee) to rent a car
  • You don't need to go to an office to rent a car - you can reserve a car online
  • Cars are parked throughout the area in on- and off-street locations
  • Gas and insurance are included in the rental.

An extensive study of carsharing by Nelson Nygaard Association found that car sharing reduces car ownership, reducing vehicle miles travelled and increases walking, biking and transit. By offering an affordable alternative to car ownership, people can sell their car (or forego purchasing one) while still having automobile access. They conclude that for every car sharing vehicle on the road, at least five private vehicles are removed.

The authors reason that car sharing also reduces driving and increases sustainable modes by changing the economics of driving. For most folks driving has a big fixed cost (buying the car) but a relatively small cost for each individual trip: You sink a lot of money into buying a car, but as long as you have gas in the tank, you don't have to pay anything for each individual trip.  

Car sharing flips that equation on its head. Car sharing membership is inexpensive, but you pay for each individual trip. Car sharing members have to consider the cost every time they drive and are therefore more likely to forego the trip in favor of walking, biking, transit. 

The study also notes that car sharing reduces vehicles emissions (both through less driving and by car sharing fleets being cleaner and more fuel efficient than the privately owned cars) and reduction in household travel costs.

*Some car rental companies now offer hourly rental

 

Read more in the Car Sharing 2.0 series 

Part I: Paris launches world's first electric car sharing program

Part II: A brief history of car sharing

Part IV: Car2go provides one way car sharing in Austin, San Diego

Part V: Nationwide (and over the pond), Zipcar continues to innovate

Part VI: Peer to peer car sharing comes to Portland

 

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