Editorial: Car sharing/Good for drivers and for cities
March 12, 2005 ED0312A
Here's the simplest recipe for a successful city: more people, fewer cars. More people tend to generate local business, safer neighborhoods and a livelier community life. More cars tend to generate the opposite. That's why better public transit is so important. And it's why car sharing is a welcome addition to Minneapolis-St. Paul.
Here's how car sharing will work. Starting in May, a small fleet of hybrid Toyotas will be stationed in the Uptown and Loring Park districts of Minneapolis and in the Lowertown neighborhood of St. Paul. Members of a program called HOURCAR can reserve a car days ahead, drive it when they need it, and get billed electronically.
The program is designed for people who rely on the bus or train to get to work but might need a car for weekend trips around town. It's designed also for city families wanting only one car, but needing a second car occasionally. And it will aid self-employed people needing occasionally to visit clients or companies wanting to encourage employees to take transit to work while providing company cars for daily errands.
"This is designed to complement transit, not compete with it," said Dan Niziolek, a Minneapolis City Council member.
What's not well understood in our car-dependent world is how much stress single-driving places on roads and air quality, and how expensive driving actually is -- both to society and to the personal pocketbook. Rising gasoline prices have now pushed the average cost of owning and operating a car in the Twin Cities above $10,000 a year, even though most people use their cars less than two hours a day.
Car sharing can cut those costs considerably while increasing personal efficiency and easing roadway congestion. Transportation experts say that each car-sharing vehicle takes the equivalent of 10 cars off the road. That's not as good as a bus or train, but it's significant.
Popular in Europe for decades, car sharing has been gaining steam in the United States since 1998. Fourteen firms with 62,000 members now operate in 14 states. It's good that car sharing will soon gain a toehold in Minneapolis-St. Paul -- good both for car-sharing members and for the wider community.