In recent months I’ve been learning more and more about the benefits of car sharing. In truth, the idea of selling my car flat out and buying into the car sharing idea is a bit daunting. And up until now, there wasn’t an option anyways. This past Wednesday evening I sat down and met with Go! Buffalo Board Members and Buffalo car sharing pioneers, Jim Simon (left) and Creighton Randall. Back in July, Creighton had posted a submission on BRO, preaching the benefits of what is now called Buffalo CarShare. It’s a concept that has taken off in cities like Austin, Philadelphia, Ithaca and Boulder and Colorado, and Jim and Creighton are banking that it’s Buffalo’s turn to buy into this progressive lifestyle initiative.
Who shares cars? Why share cars? How do you share a car? Those are just a few of questions that I wanted to ask the two consolidation proponents. It turns out that there are a bunch of reasons to ditch your car, and for those of you out there that don’t own a car, there are some good reasons to have access to one every once in a while. First off, think about all of the expenses that go hand-in-hand with owning a car – insurance and maintenance to name a couple heavy hitters. If you become a member of Buffalo CarShare, then you can pretty much write those expenses off, as the program eats the cost of both. Also, if you don’t own a garage or a driveway, then the hassles of on-street parking are negated as well.
I believe that the car share program will be most appealing to those who currently don’t have access to a car at all. One of the reasons that city-living is appealing for many is the ability to get around on foot, on bike or by utilizing public transportation. The latter of those options has not proven to be as fruitful in Buffalo as it has other cities such as Toronto or NYC. At one point in Buffalo’s history, trolleys rules the urban landscape, making it easy for people to get from place to place. And we all know that if you’re in a rush to get somewhere, hailing a taxi might take a while. During the winter, biking around the city can get a bit hairy, while walking can be be as reliable as the weather. So maybe the answer for some people really is communal car sharing.
Before they could launch the program, Jim and Creighton, along with fellow CarShare advocates Mike Galligano, Christina Kasprzak, Chris Drucker, Adam Blair, and Razy Kased, realized that they were going to need community partners. They began to form relationships with Go! Buffalo (alternative transportation), The Wellness Institute (non-profit pass-thru) and the Allentown Association (shared headquarters). Then they set out to look for partners in the community that could help them to establish CarShare hubs, where members could pick up and drop off the cars. During this time a website was set up and the business model was tweaked. Now, the final stage entails the securing of the vehicles – Jim and Creighton are in the midst of negotiating with local dealers who might be looking for exposure as the initiative picks up speed. They are also accepting car donations in the form of low mileage (30,000 miles or less), gas efficient autos – hey, you never know who might be looking for a good write-off these days.
The concept for a Buffalo CarShare program began when the two founders were at the University at Buffalo. They entered a proposal into the University at Buffalo’s Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership’s Panasci Competition and walked away as a finalist. When they learned that 31% of households don’t have a vehicle, they knew that they could really make an impact on the city. That was two years ago – since then they have been researching best practice programs throughout the country. But they don’t want to just stop at designing a best practice model – they are talking about the future of transportation and how these types of alternative transportation programs can lead to bigger and better ideas. For example, remember when I posted on electric car hubs throughout the city? It turns out that that is not such a far-fetched idea. The car share hubs could one day be occupied with electric cars, and green entrepreneurs like Creighton and Jim could be the guys that, some day, launch a piggyback program to bring that technology to Buffalo.
In the meantime, Buffalo CarShare proponents are pursuing a funding opportunity through NYSERDA and the NYSDOT that would get the program rolling as early as late spring with anticipation of running full swing by mid summer. That’s why they are asking interested parties to sign up for Pioneer Memberships. Hubs will be located in Allentown, Lower West Side, most of Elmwood and near East Side. Reserving a car will be as easy as going online and securing a date, time and car. Membership fees range from $5-$20 a month depending on the frequency a
member plans to drive and whether commutes are local or long distance. Even with the low hourly and mileage costs, the program is far cheaper that owning a car – to learn more about Buffalo CarShare just click on this website.