Who wants to share a car?
Gavin Seedorf is discovering life without an automobile. He’s wondering if other Aspenites are willing to try it as well.
The special projects manager for the Aspen city manager’s office has been studying car-sharing programs around the country and making plans for a start-up program in Aspen for about six months.
On Tuesday, interested locals are invited to a meeting at the Aspen Golf Course clubhouse to find out how the program will work and offer their input. Seedorf is hoping to gauge public interest in the idea during the discussion. The city will spring for free pizza and sodas at the meeting, scheduled from 6 to 7:30 p.m.
Seedorf knows firsthand what it’s like to live without a car. And he knows it can be done.
He sold his car about a month ago after crunching the numbers as part of his research for the car-sharing program.
“As I’ve done the math, comparing private ownership to sharing a vehicle and seeing how much money I was spending on maintaining my vehicle, I just realized there were hundreds of cars in the valley that I can use,” he said.
Seedorf has lately been an active participant in “dynamic carpooling,” also known as hitchhiking.
Joking aside, car sharing can save a vehicle owner about $1,800 a year on average, according to national estimates, Seedorf said. People who can get by on a typical day without a car can save themselves the considerable cost of car insurance, registration, car payments, etc., as well as the usual hassles that come with vehicle ownership, like getting the snow tires on and off.
A car-sharing program gives the autoless access to a vehicle when they need it, making it possible to live without a vehicle of their own.
The key to success, said Seedorf, is making vehicles readily available and making them easy to use.
Participants would face a small monthly fee, like $10 a month for administration, plus a $25 application fee, according to Seedorf’s proposal.
Actual use of the car would cost $2.50 per hour, plus 38 cents per mile. Those costs would get a little prohibitive, though, for a downvalley trip, so Seedorf is looking at an alternative fee scheme for longer trips.
“What we’re toying with is a downvalley package rate of up to 100 miles and four hours for $30, for example,” he said.
For those escapes to Moab, Denver and beyond, Seedorf said he is working with a local rental agency on a discounted, fixed rate for use of vehicles in its fleet. Few locals would give up car ownership, he reasons, if it left them stuck in the valley.
“People feel almost trapped in the valley if they don’t own a vehicle,” he said. “You feel caged. We feel like we need to hold onto our cars just so we can bust out of town.”
Already, the car-sharing proposal is generating interest, according to Seedorf.
“We have been getting quite a bit of response, especially from businesses. . Some representatives of private industry have actually contacted me,” he said.
Some businesses bring people to town and put them up. Occasionally, those individuals need use of a car, Seedorf said.
Affordable housing complexes are another logical spot for shared vehicles. Future housing projects could, for example, provide one parking space per unit and charge extra rent for a second space. Some residents might forego ownership of a second vehicle and the expense of another parking space if they had access to a shared vehicle, said Seedorf.
“We could be housing hundreds of employees instead of hundreds of vehicles,” he said.
Aspen is looking at providing cars to get a program going and has discussed the use of the Toyota Prius, a new hybrid electric/gasoline-powered car, for its environmental friendliness. A government-subsidized program, however, is not what’s envisioned, said Seedorf. He sees the day when a private concern takes over the operation.
Seedorf would like to see the first shared car available at the Truscott Place affordable housing complex this spring, with others soon to follow. Regardless of where a car is stationed, it would be available to anyone who wants to participate in the program, he said.
“For starters, we’re thinking about at least one car at Truscott, one at Centennial and one in the downtown core,” Seedorf said.
The fleet will grow with participation. Programs in Europe involve hundreds of vehicles and thousands of people, he said. Car sharing has also caught on in Canada and some larger cities in the United States, like Seattle and Portland.
Aspen may be the smallest municipality to try car sharing, but it’s an ideal place to make it work, Seedorf said. The city’s bus service and pedestrian nature make it easier for people to go without daily use of a vehicle, he said.
And, he added, Aspen has some big-city problems, like parking and traffic.
“If you’re strapped for cash like I am, you’ll take the chance,” said Seedorf. “If it doesn’t work, you’re no worse off for having tried it.”
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