Wednesday, June 10, 2009

U Car Share

On Tuesday I was brave enough to test out my membership with U Car Share, a car sharing program, similar to Zipcar, which is owned by the U-Haul Company. It was introduced to Portland not long ago and is currently only available in four (soon to be six) locations. I had a dentist appointment in the far-away land of Scarborough so I thought I would share some insights from my trip.

I know you're thinking 'why is a blog about the car-free life writing about cars?"

I will start by saying that Maine is one of the more auto-dependant states in the country and also that car sharing can be a great tool for those who choose not to own their own car and incur those costs associated with ownership. Some places, even in the greater Portland area, are practically unreachable by mass transit or are too long of a trip to make walking or biking (especially when it was raining like yesterday). Car sharing has obvious benefits as far as resource consumption and environmental impacts and is also a good choice for the wallet.

There are currently four of these U Car Share PT Cruisers located around Portland, with the two above on Elm Street and the other two on Commercial Street. The two on Elm Street are right across from the Metro Pulse station, which is a good neighbor for this type of transportation activity. I am not a big fan of the PT Cruisers but it was a nice ride and it had less than 5k miles on the odometer. It appears that zipcar has a wider selection of vehicles to choose from, and perhaps they will expand into Portland someday.

This car sharing system is based online, which would obviously be an issue for some low-income or elderly residents, but is very convenient for those who have access. You become a member by paying a small membership fee (or for free using the case-sensitive code 'MAINEMETRO2009' provided by the Metro) and then simply reserve a vehicle by the hour or by the day. It is roughly $9.50 an hour or $66.00 a day. You don't have to pay for gas, maintenance, or extra insurance (there is some sort of basic coverage provided) so it really is a good value for someone like myself who will only be using the service to make the occasional doctors appointment or to pick up a piece of furniture that I can't fit onto a bus.

The point of this post (I should probably start putting points at the beginning of posts) is that even if you choose to live a car-free lifestyle in Portland you have a (for all intensive purposes) environmentally friendlier and cost conscious alternative to owning a car.

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