Sharin’ the love….

CCShare.jpgimage from City CarShare’s website

I was pleased to see the Chron’s overview article citing the growing acceptance of car-sharing programs in SF – I’ve been a member of City CarShare for going on two years, more than one year of which I still owned my trusty Mazda sedan, which I just sold last May.

During the year that I owned AND shared, people often asked me why I did both.

I’m an admittedly over-analytical person, and I wanted to test the system against my private vehicle use to really see if it would work with my lifestyle. For several months, I randomly reserved and utilized the CCS vehicles, testing to see whether they were readily available, convienent to use at various locations, and the “true” cost – after all, the hourly fee + miles breakdown doesn’t become “real” until you start applying it. For several MORE months, I utilized the CCS vehicles exclusively – while still doing the street-cleaning shuffle of my own vehicle – to finally be assured that I *could* make car sharing a viable system for me. And then, I sold my car without hesitation, and haven’t looked back.

Now, I’m not saying that car sharing is a perfect system – it requires more diligent planning and implementation of time-limits to some activities that I’d rather leave open-ended – but as a whole, it has definately improved my city-dwelling quality of life. I no longer have heart-failure when I wake up mornings, wondering where I’d left my car parked last, and was it a Monday or Tuesday cleaning street? I’d had my car broken into twice in the 5 years I’ve lived in the city proper, and both times it had cost me plenty, both monetarily and in the raging emotional tirade that followed. Giving up the car gave me back a lot of peace of mind.

Granted, my current lifestyle affords me to make such a decision. My daily commute is from Lower Pac Hts to SoMa, which is ambitiously walkable, and serviced by several forms of public transit. There are several car-sharing lots available within blocks of my office, for the times I need to visit clients or travel to job sites. My boyfriend lives along a BART route, and my land-locked neighborhood fringes on several adjacent ‘hoods that quench my thirst for a full range of city scenes. For weekend camping trips, we take his car, which has all-wheel-drive.

And I DO use my membership regularly. On average 2-3 times each week. And to date, my monthly bill has yet to top what my monthly insurance rate was on my privately owned car, whether I used it or not. I use the Toyota Prius’ as often as I can, for obvious reasons. I’ve utilized CCS’s truck to help a friend transport a large potted palm. I fit 4 dining chairs into the ScionXB to supplement my boyfriend’s dining set for Thanksgiving. I take out the ScionXA when I know I’m heading to areas where parking between garage doors is all there is to be had. I whizzed visitors around town in the CooperMini (convertable!) and had a blast. NOT owning a vehicle has afforded me the ability to access the kinds of vehicles I need for the various kinds of activites that I do – and that beats the heck out of dealing with an SUV year-round for it’s “perfect” application just twice a year.

I’m a CCS member, but am seriously considering joining FlexCar as well – they have cars in Portland, where I visit often enough that having access to vehicles there makes a lot of sense. I’d be happy to sign up for ZipCar’s ‘occasional use only’ plan, which doesn’t charge a monthly rate, but offers a better rate when logging many miles than CCS’s plan. I can see myself being a supporter (financially as well as philosophically) of all three outfits.

Because it makes sense. Financially and philosophically.

5 Comments so far

  1. tyler82 (unregistered) on January 22nd, 2007 @ 6:10 pm

    I’ve had my car broken into twice as well, and each time, the thief “broke in” without breaking anything. First he (or she) jiggered the door open from the outside, and stole my parking change from inside my center console. The second time, they somehow rolled my window down from the outside, taking my $1.99 pair of sunglasses. I actually found it quite humorous both times, thank god it was never anything serious and that I didn’t leave my new iPod in that time! I never, ever leave anything more valuable than $5 in my car now, because there is always a market for it for crooks.

  2. Nancy (unregistered) on January 22nd, 2007 @ 6:36 pm

    Both times my window was broken. Both times I opted to pay out-of-pocket rather than file a claim. Both times nothing of value was in the car, and nothing other than the means of entry was (visibly) disrupted. But I felt violated. That my property had been damaged and my things had been rifled through enraged me, and the thought of someone sleeping in my car grossed me out.

    And street parking took a major toll on my car. I rented a garage space for a few months, but then took a stand that I’d pay the extortion rates only to house ME better, not to house my car better. As for apartment living with no assigned garage space? or a squeeky-tight one? I’ll never plunk money down on a new car just to torture it through those situations again.

    In short (albiet long winded version), I’m all for sharing. And you know those commercials of how VW drivers shared some ‘commeraderie’ when passing other VW drivers? I’ve had some good ‘that’s MY community’ moments while driving CCS, and even got a thumbs-up from some (cute, but that’s not the point) young, impressionable high-school guys – so the message is making it out there. And it’s a good thing.

  3. Belgand (unregistered) on January 23rd, 2007 @ 11:16 am

    While I like the idea of car sharing, I have to worry about the efficacy under certain conditions. In my case I’ve been looking for work and many of the jobs I’ve applied to are down on the peninsula or in areas otherwise outside of the reach of BART. The only reasonable option to get to work would be to drive there, but having to trust getting to work on time to a car sharing program, plus pay the daily fees for use don’t seem to make it worthwhile. At the same time, having a car in the city is such an amazing problem that I’m amazed there’s as much traffic as there is.

  4. tyler82 (unregistered) on January 24th, 2007 @ 12:14 pm

    I have two years until the lease on my car is up, and while I lovvve my Volkswagen, I can’t wait to get rid of it. I’ve had my car booted and towed within weeks of each other, my parking tickets alone last year were $2,000 (they really add up, especially with laws so stupid as not being able to touch a dip in the sidewalk near a driveway, even if you’re not blocking the driveway!)
    From now on, if I live and work in the city, I am buying a nice bike and I will never own a car in the city again!
    Those who work outside of the city though, it is understandable to own a car.
    I can’t tell you how jealous I am of friends who DON’T have a car- not having to worry every few minutes if your car hasn’t been ticketed, been broken into, been dented by the horrible drivers everywhere, vandalized, towed away because you are parked in a 4pm traffic lane and didn’t see the sign, etc.

  5. Nancy (unregistered) on January 24th, 2007 @ 12:32 pm

    Belgand, you might try looking into for carpooling options. I know a few people to consistantly carpool, and while it has it’s challenges, it’s a viable alternative to driving for a lot of people. Something to keep in mind, as you’re analyzing your potential job pluses/minuses.

    Tyler82 – I’ve felt your pain, yes indeedy. I had my car towed from the 4pm traffic lane THE DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS a few years ago, and it sure smarted! Car owners are just another potential revenue stream for the city, and they certainly get exploited. When I mailed off my LAST parking ticket, I did a dance of joy.

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