Smart Growth in Action: Car Sharing
Car sharing is an innovative approach to mobility that has sprung up in cities around Europe and North America. Car share members reserve one of the cars stationed around a city and use it only as needed. This allows people who car share to go from a two-car to a one-car household – or even to no car at all – thereby reducing their transportation expenses without compromising their ability to get around.
Car sharing only works in compact communities with a mix of uses. Why? First, each shared car needs to be parked within a short walk of a large number of customers to be economically viable, making it best in higher-density neighborhoods where people can walk, bike, or take public transit to work, school, shops and services. And second, car sharing only works if you do not need a car every day.
A successful car sharing program is one indicator of a healthy, well-designed community. The program also brings reciprocal benefits to the community by allowing municipal governments, universities, and other large institutions to retire a portion of their vehicle fleet and move to car share membership and provide the same level of service with fewer vehicles.
Vermont’s first car sharing service launched in late 2008, when CarShare Vermont opened in downtown Burlington. This nonprofit organization currently has over 150 members and 8 cars in 6 locations around the city, several of them purchased in cooperation with Champlain College and the University of Vermont. They plan to add locations and vehicle types, including pickup trucks, to serve a wide range of mobility needs.
Burlington isn’t the only place in our state where car sharing can work. As the cost of owning and operating a car continues to rise, car sharing will no doubt take hold in other small Vermont cities that have retained and built upon their traditional pattern of development.