Car sharing in Aspen gains traction | AspenTimes.com

Car sharing in Aspen gains traction

ASPEN ” Owning a car in Aspen can be just as big of a pain as driving one. That’s why City Hall does what it can to get people out of their vehicles ” an effort that’s a driving force behind its car-share program.

The program recently added a ninth vehicle to its fleet, allowing residents to borrow a readily available car when they need one.

The program, dubbed Roaring Fork Valley Vehicles, allows members to reserve a vehicle in town by using a telephone reservation system. Users ” who pay a monthly $10 membership fee ” are charged .25 cents a mile, and $4 an hour, which includes the costs of insurance coverage and gas.

The program began in 2000 and started with one vehicle to be used by city employees. Now, the community-wide program has five Ford Focuses, three Toyota Priuses and a truck parked at various locations throughout town. Those vehicles, which are parked in designated spots near bus stops, serve the program’s 135 members.

Members call a toll-free number to reserve a vehicle for a specific time period and then pick up the car at its location, which include spots at Centennial, Hunter Creek, the Aspen Airport Business Center, the Rio Grande parking lot, Paepcke Park, Burlingame Ranch housing, and at the corner of Spring Street and Hyman Avenue.

It hasn’t been determined where the new vehicle will be permanently parked, Aspen’s car-share coordinator, Erich Grueter, said.

As the program grows and more vehicles are purchased, they will be environmentally friendly like the Prius, a hybrid electric car.

“That was mandated by the City Council,” Grueter said, adding the Ford Focuses also are good alternatives because they get between 32 and 35 miles per gallon.

Users access the cars via keys located in lock boxes near the vehicles. They fill out paperwork, which asks them to log the odometer reading, gas gauge and other pertinent information. After they are done, users simply park the car and are billed at the end of the month.

“It’s such a great alternative to the traditional version of having your own car and associated parking space,” said Randy Ready, assistant city manager who oversees the program. “We’re seeing lots of people selling their second cars and using their membership to the car-share program instead.”

When factoring in the costs of car payments, insurance, gas, parking and wear and tear on the vehicle, the car-share program ends up being an inexpensive alternative for some residents.

Roaring Fork Vehicles is modeled after one of the first car-sharing programs in the country, a private company called Flexcar, which was started in Seattle. Its popularity spread across the West Coast and eventually competition arose on the Eastern seaboard with another company, Zipcar. The two companies then merged and now operate nationally as Zipcar.

The Aspen program operates as a nonprofit organization, funded by city grants and developer subsidies. But soon the program will fall under the auspices of the city government, Grueter said.

The program has taken off in the past two years, and is now operationally and financially self sufficient, Grueter said.

The newest vehicle was paid for by money earmarked from the Burlingame housing development, located near the ABC. There will be a 10th car added to the program this year and will serve residents at Burlingame, Grueter said.

High insurance costs make it difficult for such an endeavor to be financially feasible, but other government agencies and private organizations are finding ways to make it work.

“It’s starting to take off,” Grueter said. “It’s a pretty growing business and it’s a green thing and people like it for that reason.”

Local businesses have joined the program, forgoing the traditional “fleet vehicles” many would have purchased and used in the past. Two local architectural firms and one design company participate in Aspen’s program as an alternative to purchasing company cars.

Design Workshop is a member of the program and has used the car parked near Paepcke Park, located across from the firm’s Main Street offices. The car is used by employees who ride the bus from downvalley, who need to do errands or go to job sites.

Members of the Roaring Fork Valley Vehicles must be over 24 years of age, have a valid driver’s license and be fully insurable drivers to participate in the program. For more information on the car-share program, visit http://www.roaringforkvehicles. com, or call Grueter at 920-5066.

csack@aspentimes.com


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