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Car Sharing Comes To NY's Capital City

Mark Schmidt/University at Albany

Car-sharing services are becoming more commonplace in the United States. Albany now has two, enabling mobility for drivers without the hassle of using an auto-rental company.

The car sharing concept makes access to vehicles much easier for people who have a license but don't own a car and don't have time or money to go through the standard rental process.  The service goes back more than a decade: Seattle's Flexcar paved the way back in 2000, offering hourly rentals to subcribers who signed up for annual memberships. Car2Go has become a recognized service in several U.S. cities and the nation's capital. And now, operators are sensing an opportunity in Albany, where mass-transit and non-traditional car-sharing has generally lagged.

For about $11 or so an hour, Capital CarShare will get you where you want to go. The not-for-profit, jumpstated with $315,000 from the Capital District Transportation Committee and Capital District Transportation Authority, offers six eo-friendly cars, strategically parked throughout the city. You apply online to become a member.

Leah Golby serves on the Albany Common Council.  "It's a way to use a car without being committed to owning a car, and without having to deal with all of the issues that come up when you are a car owner. It's a great option for sustainability. It's something that people are using across the country and across the world because they realize that they don't need to own a car but sometimes access to a car makes it easier to get things done. For instance, going to a doctor, or doing a large shopping trip."

Unlike renters, sharers aren't required to place a hefty security deposit on a major credit card.  Sharers no longer need worry about insurance and maintenance, although drivers under the age of 21 must provide their own insurance. It's all covered if you're part of the University at Albany community: the college has just unveiled its Zipcar program, with car sharing available to the school’s students and faculty. Zipcar is a Massachusetts-based company, similar to Capital CarShare: to use Zipcars, simply register as a member, reserve a car online or by phone, use your Zipcard to enter the car, and drive away. When you’re done, return the car to the same location where you picked it up.

Dylan Card is president of Students for Sustainability.  "They go to the website, they sign up. They pay a $25 membership fee their first year. That gets them a card that will unlock any of these vehicles on the SUNY Albany campus. They can rent it for an hour, or a day, or just a  few hours..."

There are six Zipcars on campus. Depending on much the cars get used, Card says Zipcar may decide to add more cars to the fleet to meet the demand.

AAA estimates the average cost of owning a car in the U.S. is just over $9,000 a year. Car sharing devotees say even if you need a vehicle several times a week and perhaps a couple of weekends each month, you'll likely pay less than a third of that amount annually.

UAlbany's partnership with Zipcar provides a number of environmental benefits to its campus and beyond, including:

·      Each car share member reduces their personal CO2 emissions by between 1,100 and 1,600 pounds per year;

·      On average, car sharingmembers drive 40 percent fewer miles after joining a car share program; and

·      Members of Zipcar and car sharing programs report a 46 percent increase in public transit trips, a 10percent increase in bicycling trips and a 26 percent increase in walking trips.

In addition, a Transportation Research Board/National Academy of Sciences study finds each shared car takes about 15 private cars off the road.

Zipcar estimates that for the year ending 2011, based on 625,000 members, the estimated CO2 reduction from Zipcar members was between 685 million and 1 billion pounds. Further, Zipcar estimates it has removed more than 120,000 vehicles since inception, while members report saving an average of $600 per month compared to car owners.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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