02 December 2004
For Immediate Release
FFI: Mary Morse 651-221-4462 x139
Groundbreaking Car-Sharing Program to Start Twin Cities Operations
The Neighborhood Energy Consortium (NEC) announced today that it will launch Minnesota’s first car-sharing service with seed funding from the federal government, Hennepin County, the state Office of Environmental Assistance, and the Saint Paul Foundation. The NEC’s program, called hOurCar, will get rolling in the spring with six cars distributed among hubs in the Uptown and Loring Park neighborhoods in Minneapolis and the Lowertown district of downtown Saint Paul.
Congresswoman Betty McCollum, Senators Norm Coleman and Mark Dayton, and Congressman James Oberstar led efforts at the federal level to secure a $275,000 appropriation to help launch hOurCar. “I am pleased to have succeeded in securing federal funding for this investment in our transportation future,” said Congresswoman McCollum. “hOurCar is an innovative program that provides creative transportation solutions to ease congestion, improve air quality and make transportation opportunities more accessible to everyone, benefiting our entire community.”
Locally Commissioner Peter McLaughlin worked with hOurCar to obtain a $50,000 pledge from Hennepin County to help underwrite the launch of hOurCar operations in Minneapolis. The Saint Paul Foundation will contribute $25,000 to bring hOurCar services to Saint Paul. The state’s Office of Environmental Assistance will augment its initial hOurCar planning support with a grant to put cars on the road.
Car-sharing is a neighborhood-based mobility service that allows members to use cars when needed and pay based on how much they drive. hOurCar will manage a fleet of late-model automobiles for members’ use. Members will reserve cars through the hOurCar website or by phone. The electronically secured cars will be parked in hubs of two to five cars, in ramps and on lots located within a short walk, bike, or transit ride of members’ homes and workplaces.
hOurCar members may save up to several thousand dollars each year by car-sharing. With a fleet comprised entirely of gas-electric hybrid vehicles and a flexible payment plan, hOurCar aims to maximize car-sharing’s proven benefits of cleaner air, reduced traffic, resource conservation, and greater mobility for residents at all income levels. hOurCar offers membership plans tailored to meet the distinct needs of individual drivers, households, and businesses.
Members will pay for hOurCar’s services through monthly membership dues and vehicle usage fees. Members who opt to pay $5/month dues can use hOurCars at a rate of $6.95/hour plus $0.45/mile. Alternatively, members may choose to pay higher monthly dues of $20 along with lower usage rates of $4.95/hour plus $0.39/mile. “Our unique dual rate structure allows members to choose the plan that will save them the most money,” points out Kurt Fischer, hOurCar’s manager. “hOurCar pays for everything else—fuel, insurance, maintenance—everything.”
To maximize participation and to ensure community benefits, hOurCar planners are working closely with the cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Metro Commuter Services, neighborhood groups such as the Uptown Association, Citizens for a Loring Park Community and the CapitolRiver Council, and several Twin Cities Transportation Management Organizations, housing developers, and local elected officials.
Mary Morse, Executive Director of the NEC, hOurCar’s nonprofit parent organization, notes that “What makes hOurCar unique among car-sharing services worldwide is our emphasis on environmental benefits. Our signature vehicle—the Toyota Prius—is known for its fuel efficiency. What’s less well known is that this car is incredibly clean. According to Toyota, the Prius emits up to 90% fewer pollutants than the average new vehicle. And the Prius is a great looking car that’s fun to drive.”
Independent researchers have documented the benefits of car-sharing in the San Francisco Bay area where City CarShare (CCS), the nation’s largest nonprofit car-sharing organization operates. CCS members are driving fewer miles, generating less pollution, consuming less gasoline, increasing their use of transit, and biking more since joining CCS. hOurCar will work with researchers at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs to evaluate the impact of hOurCar on the Twin Cities.
Gay Noble, an Uptown resident and aide to Minneapolis City Council member Dan Niziolek, remarked, “To have hOurCar locating in Uptown is such a great addition for residents in the area. For me personally this is so exciting since I do not own a car. Now I’ll have use of a car for those times I need to get to places not served by transit.”
For more information about hOurCar and to register interest in membership, visit www.hOurCar.org.
The NEC is a 19-year-old nonprofit organization that promotes sustainable communities. In addition to launching hOurCar, the NEC conducts utility-sponsored residential energy audits and insulation programs, provides consultation on energy-efficient construction, offers residential energy improvement loans, and produces Minnesota’s largest recreational bike ride, the Saint Paul Classic Bike Tour.
Neighborhood Energy Consortium
624 Selby Avenue
Saint Paul, MN 55104