Sharing cars – an affordable option
September 21, 2005
Roaring Fork Valley Vehicles, a car-sharing program, began in May 2001 as a way to reduce the parking-space allotment in Aspen’s affordable housing projects. The idea is that hard-won, expensive land should be filled with housing units for people and yards for flowers, not cars. Moreover, City Council was serious about reducing traffic in town. Metered parking was initiated downtown in 1995; a free and convenient bus system operates within and just beyond the city limits; and a web of walking and bike paths weaves throughout Aspen. Did every adult who lived and worked in Aspen need to own a car?
Local officials asked this question repeatedly over the years, and Gavin Seedorf wondered too. An Aspen High School graduate who was hired as director of Roaring Fork Valley Vehicles after his 2001 graduation from the University of Colorado, Boulder, Seedorf feels strongly that car-sharing is an attractive option for citizens who only use a car occasionally. The “car-free” Seedorf lives at the Aspen Business Center (where one of RFVV’s cars is parked) and bicycles year-round to his office at the Yellow Brick school.Here’s how the program works: Five Ford Focuses are parked in signed spots around town and shared by 60 RFVV members. A car is reserved through a telephone touch-tone system at $3.50 an hour and 20 cents a mile: a good deal with today’s astronomical fuel and insurance costs. I don’t often use my membership, but I have always been able to confirm a car when I needed it.Bicycle racks are available on request, and the cars are kept clean (no smoking!), serviced and provided with snow tires in winter. Members pay a $10-a-month fee whether they use a car or not. But there are promotional deals and driving tips offered in a monthly newsletter, including a travel discount with Colorado Mountain Express shuttle service.
As a single person, I have only my own schedule and life to manage, but the program can work for families too. The Superts, who live at the Hunter Creek Apartments, have been RFVV members since March 2002. Karen has her own bookkeeping business, and she uses the RFVV car parked “a couple of minutes from my door” to visit her clients who are not on the bus route, to pick up her children from after-school activities on a cold winter night. “If I know I have a huge grocery run, I use the [RFVV Ford] wagon parked down at Rio Grande,” she added. When Supert first joined the program there was only one RFVV car and it was often reserved when she needed it. She also used the car almost daily because of volunteer work that took her all over the valley, so her RFVV monthly bill grew too high. “I just had to rethink some things. I dropped that particular volunteer activity, and I take the bus if my business and errands are on the bus line.” Blue Green, a landscape architecture firm, uses RFVV as its company car for client meetings and site visits. Founder Sheri Sanzone said, “The car parked downtown is so convenient, parked right next to the building where our office is. If it’s not available, we hop on our bike – we also have a company bike – and ride to a car parked at another location.” Blue Green simply bills its clients for the RFVV costs.
Not everyone has to own a car in Aspen. Try sharing the wheels supplied by Roaring Fork Valley Vehicles and the city of Aspen. It works for me – and for 60 other full-time and part-time Aspenites.Sara Garton, a longtime Aspenite, gave up on her old car and has discovered she can manage without owning a vehicle.