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Car Sharing Driving Us To More Efficient Travel

August 27, 2009

Car sharing companies, such as Zipcar have been revolutionary in changing the way we use transportation: they’ve allowed us to rent cars by the hour. But the idea of carsharing has also promoted another revolution – it has begun to shape the way we think about transportation.

As a city dweller, I love living in a metropolis as it means that near everything is at my fingertips. However, there are times that call for some travel whether it is to a neighborhood on the other side of town to buy groceries, a trip out to Ikea, or a slow day trip up the coastline to the beach. What the onset of car sharing programs has changed is how I think about getting myself to each of these destinations.

Biking has taken many cities by storm this summer, probably for many reasons, but one of which is that it’s pretty much free. It’s a zero-emission, quick, and enjoyable form of transportation for short trips. Heading to the farmer’s market? To work? Why not bike? The only drawback to biking are those days when it’s oppressively hot and humid, or you time it just right so there’s a thunderstorm and downpour just when you’re headed home from the office. In those cases, I’d use the city’s public transportation system, whether bus or train.

In the case of Boston’s MBTA, it’s completely worth $1.70 to hop on the bus and get home quickly and most importantly, dry. Granted, my carbon footprint just got a little bit bigger, but there was a reason behind this choice. It used to be that monthly T passes, or personal cars were purchased regardless of the weather. People would use these carbon-emitting services on a beautiful 70-degree day, AND when it was stormy.

When heading on day-trips or away for a weekend, a car becomes necessary. This is when Zipcar or Goloco come in handy. However, many users of these services are forced to think about exactly what they need the car for, and for how long. In thinking this way, we run errands or take trips more efficiently. We might combine a trip to the beach with grocery shopping on the way home, or picking up dry cleaning.Zipcar sign

In sharing rides with friends, or friends of friends, we’ve also made our car rides far more enjoyable. Now, not only are we using the car efficiently, and saving money, but get to talk to and meet people along the way. I used to cringe when driving along the highway and all you see is car after car with only the driver. Not to mention how lonely that must be. No wonder people are angry, and frustrated with all the traffic – they just want to get to their destination where they at least feel like part of a community. Well, now people can slow down and use transportation as a means of engaging socially as well.

We are using transportation modes when they are the correct, most efficient and enjoyable modes and in doing so, we’ve become far more attuned to the price – both monetary and environmentally – of transportation. When you own a car, you rarely think about how much that trip to the grocery store cost you. You eventually fill up the tank, and that price may seem daunting, but then you forget about it while you drive your car around on a full tank. When car sharing, we are forced to think about how much each and every trip is costing. You may consider using a hybrid because it will only cost you around $6 an hour through zipcar, instead of a less efficient car, which will cost you around $8. Not to mention you can feel better about your reduced emissions. You may figure that walking to the store is cheaper than tacking another hour onto your reservation to drive.

So ultimately, we can thank Zipcar and other companies for altering our attitudes regarding transportation. Many people now consider the means of transportation that would best match their needs, and in doing so, are making environmental choices as well.

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