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E-M:/ Story for Winter 05/06 "Westsider"

by John Gear (West St.)

A blessing of Lansing's Westside Neighborhood is that it's close to many downtown jobs
and attractions --- so much so that many of us find that our cars sit in our driveways more
than 90-95 percent of the time.  Thus, even though we drive our only car (or our second car)
much less than average, we have to buy insurance by the year, and our costly cars (and is there
any other kind these days?) depreciate monthly, driven much or not.

An idea used for saving money in cities across Europe and in the United
States is car sharing.  Car sharing let people avoid buying that second car
(or first, for some) by making cars available on an "as needed" basis.  By sharing car
ownership with others, you eliminate the need to own that next car for yourself. 
This can save you thousands of dollars annually, as you only pay as you drive,
with all the expenses of ownership, maintenance, and insurance built into the car sharing fee
(usually a combination of an hourly rate plus a per-mile fee).

With gas prices skyrocketing (and unlikely to ever fall much, now that global
oil production is passing its peak), this is a good time to think about ways to maintain
the benefits of cars while reducing the costs. 

For instance, many of us would like to drive a high-mileage hybrid, for example,
but we don't drive enough to justify the hefty price tag that hybrids command. 
With car sharing, hybrids make lots of sense as the cost is spread over more people.

I would like to organize a group to explore car sharing and to see if a car sharing program
makes sense for our neighborhood.  The city we left when we moved to Lansing --
which was about the same size -- has a successful car-sharing program that works
in the downtown and close-in neighborhoods (like the Westside Neighborhood)
and people are very happy with it.

If you would like to discuss carsharing and the possibility of setting up a car sharing program
in our neighborhood, please send me an e-mail (jmgear@acd.net), or call me at 371-1901. 
If there is enough interest, I will organize a meeting where we can talk about our options
and start figuring out whether we can create a viable car sharing program here.

There is a great introduction to the topic at www.carsharing.net if you want to know more.