Car sharing not ideal for this suburban family

i-go-mapeditors-blog-entry3I’m intrigued by car sharing, but I have to admit that I can’t quite wrap my head around whether it would work for us.

In fact, right now I’m writing up a list of questions for a Q&A SolarChargedDriving.Com is going to do with Sharon Feigon, CEO of I-GO, a Chicago-based car sharing organization.

I-GO recently announced it will be building 16 – yes, that’s right – 16 solar-powered EV charging stations in the Chicago area. That’s not only pretty cool, it’s also enough to significantly increase the total number of public solar-EV charging stations in the U.S., perhaps by as much as five, maybe even ten percent.

Most of the dozen or so questions I’m hoping Sharon will answer have to do with the EV + PV synergy I-GO is promoting.

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Questions about car sharing
I do have some personal questions about car sharing I’d like to ask Sharon – or any car sharing expert. However, I don’t plan to send these to her in order to keep my Q&A short enough.

My biggest question: I’m wondering if car-sharing would be a viable, convenient, economical option for a household such as ours.

We’ve got two parents who work full-time in different places, two children who need to be driven to school every day (our kids go to a language immersion school about nine miles from our home and about one mile from where I work).

Right now, we’re a two-clunker car and, unfortunately, still EV-less household.

We spend about $5,500 per year on driving expenses. According to I-GO, this is about $2,000 less than the average household forks over for personal transportation costs (having clunkers means we haven’t had monthly car payments for well over a decade).

Still, $5,500 per year is about $3,000 more per year than what I-GO claims is the average for its members.

i-go-imievIs car sharing for us?
One of our clunkers – a 1994 Toyota Camry with nearly 290,000 miles on it — is very close to the end of its life, and we don’t want to have to sink another $1,000 here, another $1,000 there into it. In fact, we probably should have already sold it.

Car sharing as a way to replace this clunker might not be a bad idea for us. Again, though, what does car sharing actually look like in a situation like ours?

We might save money by car sharing but we could give up a lot in convenience and time. In fact, convenience and extra-time issues – it would take us about 1 ½ hours to get the kids to school using public transportation as opposed to 25 to 30 minutes in our own car – are crucial deciding factors for 99% of Americans.

For example, I’m not willing to wake up the kids 45 minutes earlier, walk 10 minutes to the bus stop, wait five minutes there, take a 10-minute bus trip to the light-rail station, wait 10 minutes there, take a 20-minute trip on the light rail, do a 10-minute walk to the kids’ school, and then do a 20-minute walk to get to work. Frankly, I’d rather take the 45 minutes and bike straight to work – which I do whenever I can, which isn’t often thanks to the fact that my kids’ school is on the way to where I work and only one-mile away from my workplace.

Public transportation too inconvenient for many
This is what public transportation looks like for the vast majority of Americans not lucky (or smart?) enough to live directly next to a train/light rail/subway/bus line that can take them directly – with no transferring – from home to work and back.

I’m guessing the inconvenience/extra time factor could present some problems in terms of us using car-sharing to replace one of our two current cars. The only way car-sharing would work for us, and people like us, who commute every day — in my case, with two kids in tow – is if the car-sharing organization has pick-up and drop-off points very close to where we live and work.

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Even then, my wife would need to drive me and the kids to the car sharing pick-up point – a logical place for such a point would be at the light rail station about two miles from our home – and then pick-up us up when we came home.

There are additional complications – the kids have to go to gymnastics three miles away from our house, etc., etc. – which almost certainly would make car-sharing more difficult and most likely more extra effort than it’s worth.

In fact, it looks as if car sharing is not an option for us yet anyway. I just “Googled” a bit and it appears as if in the Denver area at least, car sharing is pretty much a downtown-Denver phenomenon and has not yet graduated to suburbs such as Aurora, which is where we live. Indeed, looking at the different options, egocarshare, and the aptly-named – which seems to literally write out regular commuters such as ourselves from the car sharing equation, it would seem that car sharing isn’t yet something for people like us who live in a suburb and who need a car every day.

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