Tomorrow I leave with my daughter Isabella and the cameraman of the documentary about the No Impact project on a 200-mile trip to my hometown of Westport, MA, a trip I haven't made for nearly a year because of the project. But now that the rule-based phase of the project is formally over, even my fairly stringent environmental conscience accepts that I occasionally have to visit my family, impact or no.
The bad news is that the dog sitter canceled at the last minute, which means I have to bring Frankie with me which means I can't take the train. That means that I'm going to drive. But there is a little bit of good news and to the actual point of this post: a method we can all use to reduce our reliance on cars.
According to a paper by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute:
Carsharing is an automobile rental service intended to substitute for private vehicle ownership. Carsharing emphasizes affordability and convenience. Vehicles are rented by hour, located near residences, and require minimal effort to check in and out. Carsharing services are common in some European countries and are increasing in North America. Carsharing gives consumers a practical alternative to owning a personal vehicle that is driven less than about 6,000 miles (10,000 kilometres) per year. Carsharing has lower fixed costs and higher variable costs than private vehicle ownership. This price structure makes occasional use of a vehicle affordable, even to low-income households. It also gives drivers an incentive to minimize their vehicle use and rely on other travel options as much as possible. Carsharing typically reduces average vehicle use by 40-60% among drivers who rely on it, making it an important transportation demand management strategy. [Emphasis is mine]
Car sharing is an environmentally friendlier alternative to car ownership because 10 to 20 households end up sharing the use of each vehicle, the per use costs of the vehicle is a deterrent to casual use (as opposed to actually owning the car), the comparatively lower costs of public transportation and walking and biking make them more attractive than car use. In fact, a study of a car sharing service in Portland, OR concluded that:
- 26% of members sold their personal vehicle after joining the organization.
- 53% of members avoided a vehicle purchase as a result of their membership.
- Members increased transit ridership, bicycle use and walking.
In other words, the idea of car sharing is that it allows people to get rid of their cars but still have occasional access to them, with the overall effect of lower reliance on automobiles. Plus, in my case, using Zipcar, I get to drive a Toyota Prius which gets 45 miles per gallon, making use of a car for my trip, since three people (and a dog) are traveling, about as efficient as the train.
Click here to find car sharing services near you (and don't forget to get rid of your car).