Dude, share my car? A look at peer-to-peer car sharing

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[This piece also appeared in Checkerboard City, John’s weekly transportation column in Newcity magazine, which hits the streets on Wednesday evenings.]

Last year Zipcar, the world’s largest car-sharing company, really got my goat with its “Sometimes you just need a car” ad campaign, featuring images of people looking miserable while pedaling to a meeting or riding the bus to a music gig. Fact is, my friends and I do these things all the time, and cyclists and transit users make up a big chunk of the company’s customer base. Why insult your clientele?

But Zipcar did have a point. Even sustainable-transportation blackbelts can use an automobile now and then for road trips, hauling cargo or giving rides to friends and family. Zipcar and I-GO, operated by the local nonprofit Center for Neighborhood Technology, provide a great service to car-free Chicagoans by allowing us to include driving in our toolbox of travel options.

The new breed of peer-to-peer car-sharing companies takes a different approach by helping individuals rent directly from private car owners. This model may actually be a bit more eco-friendly, since it eliminates the need for the company to purchase a fleet of new vehicles and lease off-street parking spaces for them.

The peer-to-peer service Relay Rides, founded by Northwestern University grad Shelby Clark and based in San Francisco, opened in Chicago earlier this year and now operates in nineteen U.S. cities. Its competitor Getaround, also headquartered in San Francisco, launched here in September and currently serves Austin, San Diego and Portland, Oregon, as well. I recently called cofounder Jessica Scorpio to learn how the wheels of fortune spin.

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Shifting view of car ownership driving younger users to car sharing

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I-GO member Angel Collazo. Photo by Kimiteru Tsuruta

This post was contributed by Kimiteru Tsuruta, a grad student at Nortwestern’s Medill Journalism School. During his time in Tokyo, Tsurata was amazed by the efficiency and coverage of its public transit system. He has a B.A. in economics from the University of California, Irvine, and now covers Chicago’s transportation news with the Medill News Service. This piece originally appeared on Medill Reports.

Practicality and economics may be the main reasons increasing numbers of people use car-sharing services, but there also seems to be an underlying shift in how young people perceive car ownership.

“Car-sharing members tend to have attitude,” said Joseph Schwieterman, professor of public service and director of the Chaddick Institute at DePaul University. “They see their lifestyle choices not only as a matter of just convenience, but as a rejection of the notion that a privately owned vehicle is important.” Continue reading Shifting view of car ownership driving younger users to car sharing

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Thoughts on car sharing and the folding car

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Rendering of the MIT CityCar by Franco Vairani. Post updated 9:57 to add commentary on parking. 

This morning, RelayRides will announce it is updating its system on how neighbors share cars. Before, only cars with OnStar and smart card systems could be used (like how I-GO and ZipCar operate now). The change is that anyone with a car can sign up to lend it, for as little as $5 per hour, using a key exchange: the owner and the renter arrange to transfer the key.

I’m looking forward to seeing how this works in practice. I’m going to convince my roommates and friends to sign up their cars. Individual car ownership does not bode well for our society, economy, and environment. The kinds of cars we own have a less significant impact than how we drive them. How we drive is what makes our car culture. The one that costs us more than we can afford, pollutes the environment, and sustains a sedentary lifestyle. Continue reading Thoughts on car sharing and the folding car

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Gettin’ down at the I-GO Car Sharing members’ holiday party

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Even though I don’t use car sharing often, I’m very glad it exists. I live a block away from an I-GO Car Sharing location and I have a membership, but I can easily do almost all my commuting and errands by walking, biking and transit, carrying groceries and such in my bike’s saddlebags. Even if I need to move furniture or large items from the home improvement store I can haul most of these things with my large bike trailer.

So if I check out an I-GO vehicle it’s usually because I’m too lazy to hook up my trailer. As I wrote last week, other than road trips and transporting other people, the main reason I would use a car is to move fragile music gear to gigs. The by-the-hour pay scheme of car sharing makes it impractical for a trip where the car just sits outside the club for three hours while I rock out. (Any I-GO staffers reading this, please reply to this post to let me know if you guys actually offer a plan that makes sense for this kind of trip).

Continue reading Gettin’ down at the I-GO Car Sharing members’ holiday party

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