There is so much to love about living in a city. Culture, diversity, and endless entertainment are just a few of the reasons people adopt the urban lifestyle, but most would agree it’s the energy that draws us in and keeps us wanting more. Unfortunately, that energy tends to result in congested streets and highways full of honking drivers. But city folk are nothing if not resourceful, and car-sharing programs have become a widely popular method for beating the traffic and personal costs of car ownership.
According to the Earth Policy Institute, there are currently 246 million registered motor vehicles and 209 million licensed drivers in the United States – that equals nearly five vehicles for every four drivers. About 10 million new cars were sold in 2009 while 14 million were scrapped, indicating car ownership is in a decline. But perhaps the most interesting piece of data from the study is that four out of five Americans now live in cities, and widespread car ownership has led to immobility in these overpopulated areas.
Congestion is a big issue for those living in metro areas, a fact MyCityWay is well aware of. The MyCityWay apps (including New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Dallas, Washington DC, and many more) have real-time traffic cams to help residents navigate the chaos – a much-needed tool for some of the most congested cities in America. According to a new study by CarBuzz, the average commute for all city residents is 12.8 miles, taking about 33 minutes. The average person will spend two weeks a year stuck in traffic, and 3.9 billion gallons of fuel will be burned as a result.
Despite the negative statistics, many companies have recognized a growing need and are implementing programs to attract urban drivers. Over the past year, car-sharing has grown by 16 percent domestically, and 27 programs with more than 518,000 members registered are using 7,770 vehicles around the country. Zipcar is a hugely successful car-sharing company with locations around the country, Canada and the UK. And while Zipcar is the industry leader, rental car companies like Enterprise and Hertz have gotten in on the action as well. DriveNow is a new car-sharing venture from BMW Group and Sixt A that’s currently based out of Munich and Berlin, but is already planning on international expansion. And Autolib’ launched the first electric car-sharing program in the world, a service now being put into motion by Car2go in the U.S. While peer-to-peer car-sharing programs have been gaining popularity, some of the most successful car-sharing programs in the country are nonprofit.
- San Francisco: Bay Area residents have no shortage of car-sharing programs to choose from, but City CarShare is one of the most popular options. It’s also been named Best of the Bay four times by SF Weekly and is a founding member of the Car Sharing Association (CSA).
- Philadelphia: PhillyCarShare gets plenty of buzz for its accomplishments. A recent study determined that its members gave up over 4,500 vehicles, drove 17 million fewer miles than the average, cut back on 770,000 gallons of gasoline, and saved the city from 47,000 hours of traffic delay.
- Chicago: In the same vein as City CarShare and PhillyCarShare, Chicago’s nonprofit I-GO is also a great success. The varied fleet is comprised of 100% low-emission, fuel-efficient vehicles, and I-GO members have reduced annual transportation expenses by up to $5,000. They also have an innovative partnership with the city’s public transportation system.
- Denver-Boulder: Created by a group of Boulder residents concerned about minimizing their environmental impact, eGo CarShare was one of the first car-sharing programs to take off. It recently expanded its service into Denver thanks to significant outside funding from a CMAQ (Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality) grant.
- Syracuse: Launched in 2008, CuseCar reaches throughout Syracuse and Onondaga County. Though it’s still in its early stages, the program is experiencing strong growth and is continuing to expand. It also doesn’t hurt that CuseCar members can drive to Canada – not a bad way to entice new business.
Do you use a car-sharing service in your city? How do you think car-sharing programs could improve where you live? Tell us in the comments!