Tuesday, March 29, 2005


Car Sharing Actually Works?

You probably remember when ZipCar and FlexCar came out a few years ago. It seemed like an interesting idea, but you wondered how it could actually work. Even if someone made a genuine effort to use only the shared car for necessary trips, it would be hard to actually give up their personal car--what about emergencies? If you need to go to the ER, and there's no FlexCar available, you're in a bad situation. You might take that chance yourself, but if you have a family are you going to put them at risk?

I figured most people would end up hanging onto their own cars, and realize eventually that the car sharing is of no benefit when they're already paying for a vehicle that they aren't going to get rid of.

Turns out that's not the case. And the car sharing companies are booming in a very unexpected area: the Los Angeles-like sprawl of the Washington, DC suburbs. The article is vague about the circumstances of the individuals who have taken the no-car plunge, and there seem to be some modest government subsidies involved (especially in securing parking spaces for the shared cars) but apparantly smaller companies that can't afford to own a fleet of cars are taking advantage of the car sharing companies' economies of scale. Which is more encouraging in a way, since it ought to allow businesses to function better in the inner suburbs, instead of running for the momentarily uncrowded edge.

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