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Sierra Magazine
Lay of the Land

Doing Your (Car) Share | Beaver Backlash | Making Room for Salmon | Logging in the Grand Canyon | Mythbuster

Doing Your (Car) Share

While you're waiting for the mass-transit system of your dreams, you can start kicking the car habit by car-sharing. This transportation alternative began in Germany and Switzerland ten years ago and now exists in over 100 European cities. Last March, Car-Sharing Portland became America's first car-share business, with a fleet of more than ten cars. In Seattle, city and county governments are spending nearly half a million dollars to offer 100 shared vehicles within a year.

In a car share, or co-op, cars are parked in convenient neighborhood locations. When in need, members call a 24-hour number to reserve a vehicle. Car-Sharing Portland bills members $1.50 an hour (to encourage prompt return of the car) and 40 cents a mile to cover the costs of insurance, gas, and maintenance. Some co-ops also charge an annual membership fee.

Car shares typically maintain one car for every ten members. They offer mobility at a fraction of the environmental-and personal-cost of individual car ownership. The hardest part, says Richard Katzev, one of the organizers of Car-Sharing Portland, is depersonalizing the automobile: moving beyond "the love and attachment people have for their cars."—Linda Baker

(C) 2000 Sierra Club. Reproduction of this article is not permitted without permission. Contact for more information.

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