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October 22, 2014

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I Don’t Have a Car and Don’t Want One: Emergence of Car-sharing Organizations

public-transportation2

Many in urban areas are finding that their automobiles are a burden, but can’t really do without one.

Owning a personal vehicle is expensive: car payments, gas, insurance, maintenance, parking fees, etc.

An automobile is ultimately a depreciating investment where you often pay more than the vehicle was worth on the showroom floor.

Due to the stagnant wages of the middle class and subsequent decrease in discretionary income, automobile loans have become more long term; a five year or longer loan is not uncommon anymore.

In the U.S and many other countries the automotive industry is very vulnerable to economic fluctuations. Most are floating on a small profit margin of one to two percent.

For many automobile companies, the constant marketing and financial planing keeps the entropy abated; preventing a situation where they will be absorbed by other companies or forced to close down.

Increasing the amount of hybrid and full electric cars is a positive move, but these cars are not the most affordable and the related infrastructure is not well developed yet.

One must remember that America almost lost its automobile industry during the Economic Crisis of 2008, requiring a massive Federal bail-out to prevent its complete disappearance from the U.S. The recent increase in profits, shown lately by many companies, may be an aberration and hype to give the illusion of a come-back where in actuality nothing has changed economically or in making cars more affordable.

Overall, this is a decrepit, interdependent system. Business pundits, government officials, the automobile industry and consumers are caught in a time warp oblivious to the automotive industry’s teetering status and unsustainability.

Americans and other nations around the globe are not only becoming economic slaves, but slaves to their cars. In the U.S., the situation is a direct consequence of the creation of an automobile oriented society which has destroyed most alternatives to mobility, and created a related industry that is ultimately unsustainable and predatory on consumers.

If you are young, elderly, disabled or low income, being car-less can greatly limit your freedom to shop, socialize or find jobs. Public transportation, although available in many areas is not always convenient or a suitable substitute compared to the automobile.

Do Americans really have a love affair with their cars or a love/hate relationship with them?

People around the nation and the world do not want to have the burden of owning a car, but a car is necessary for shopping, errands and trips where convenient public transportation is not available.

From this need arose the idea of car sharing. tc-carshare-shareit-logoThe concept is not ownership, but sharing the costs of driving a car with others.

The movement is spreading across the U.S., Canada and the world.

In the U.S. there are companies such as: I-Go Car Sharing Chicago, RelayRides, Hourcar, CityCarShare.org and Zipcar .Some of them are available only in one particular city, but others like Zipcar have multiple locations in the U.S., Canada, U.K., and Spain.

There are also organizations such as: Carsharing.net  and the CarSharing Association which serve as information sharing sites and advocacy groups for car-sharing.

The general operation procedure for car-sharing is:
1. Payment of a membership (this may vary according to the type of plan).
2. Location of the nearest vehicle (sedan, truck, SUV etc.) via a devise connected to the Internet.
3. Reservation via computer, phone, or mobile device.
4. Going to the location by walking, public transit, bicycle or ride from friend/relative.
3. Unlocking it with a magnetic card with the keys in glove compartment.
4.  Driving to a location or using it all day depends upon the plan you have selected. When you complete your journey you leave it at a designated location, lock it and leave the keys in the vehicle.

Insurance and gas are included in the plans that were researched. There is no need for maintenance, it is included in the membership as well.

What are the selling points for these companies?

  • Savings over owning a vehicle. Zipcar claims people are saving an average of $500 a month.
  • Supplement for people who primarily use public transportation.
  • Need of car when another spouse is using the primary car.
  • Flexibility concerning the type of vehicle needed for a particular day (truck, sedan, SUV).
  • Appeal for those who want to be environmentally conscious and support sustainability, particularly because many of these firms use hybrid cars.

The public benefits are:

  • Takes cars off the road, easing pollution and congestion.
  • Saves energy and decreases the dependency on fossil fuels that indirectly support many oppressive regimes.
  • Encourages use of public transportation, bicycle and walking.
  • Breaks the cycle of the predatory automobile industry on consumers.
  • Frees up more discretionary income for other purchases which stimulates growth in services and creates more jobs.
  • Progression on the creation of a sustainable planet.

Most people have never heard of car-sharing. Yet, companies and associations are slowly proliferating around the world. Will it become an integral part of increased mobility, or be a footnote?

Follow-up article on his discussion will be one on the provision of car-sharing for low-income persons, particularly those who face mobility problems in gaining employment.

Image Credit: www.peterborough.gov.uk

Michael Andrew McAdams (20 Posts)