Philly CarShare Helps City Government Reduce Its Fleet

car_share_philly.JPGThe Philly CarShare program (Motto: "Why own when you can borrow?") is one of the most successful of its kind in the country. Currently in its fifth year, the Philadelphia-based non-profit recently surpassed 30,000 members and is generating $10 million annually to pay for a small staff, the purchase and maintenance of a fleet, and a reduction in rates when possible.

Started by two city planners, a community activist and an investment banker, Philly CarShare’s goal is "fewer cars clogging streets and lungs." Yesterday’s Philadelphia Inquirer reported:

One of Philly CarShare’s advantages is the relationship it has with local government. In 2004, it awarded Philly CarShare a contract that allows multiple departments to share cars, and then frees them up at night and on weekends for use by city residents.

As a result, Philadelphia was able to sell off 329 vehicles. Since the program started, the estimated saving in lower insurance costs, less use, and less abuse is $6 million, according to Jeff Friedman, a consultant for the city’s Office of Fleet Management.

Nationally, Sheehan says, studies show that each shared car takes six to 10 private vehicles off the road. Factor in the number of car purchases postponed or canceled, and the number jumps to about 25.


Photo: Jonathan Wilson

  • Jason A

    I recently visited Philly and was pleasantly surprised by the abundance of CarShare vehicles. Throughout the city significant street space is reserved for the mini-depots that house 2-5 of the vehicles… It really looks convenient.

    I saw a number of number of people using them as well. It looks the program is really popular (and the logo is super cute!).

    Now if only they could develop better cross-town bike routes…

  • anon

    I can’t believe how cheap Philly Carshare is compared to Zip Car: $49 dollars a day v. $100! Even considering higher prices in NYC there Philly Carshare has found some great efficiencies. Can they start a branch up here?

    I really wish the City would embrace this. I’m sure there are union issues but it could save so much money and address some of the problems associated with city cars and permits.

  • Larry Littlefield

    (I’m sure there are union issues)

    There are always union issues.

    At City Planning, when doing field work with others, I’d arrive at the office, meet the co-workers, and then set off to get the city car. After filling out the forms and getting the vehicle, we’d head to the location for the field work. Soon after we arrived, it would be time for lunch. Leaving the field early, we’d return to the location to drop off the car, do more field work, and return to the office in time to depart.

    When doing field work on my own, I would sometimes use transit and sometimes use my own car, forgoing reimbursement to avoid the hassle of all the forms. Either way, I’d travel directly to the field location from home, starting right in the work, and travel directly from a field location home.

    More work accomplished, less aggravation, probably somehow illegal. But it hardly mattered, as much of the work I did there was never used in any event.

  • mork

    In other car-sharing news, Zipcar today announced that it’s merging with Flexcar, which mostly operates in different cities.

    (I’m psyched because it means I’ll be able to take NJT/SEPTA to Philly and pick up Zipcar there for trips to South Carland.)

  • mork

    Also, I forgot to mention: Besides higher garage costs in NYC vs. Philly, PhillyCarShare is nonprofit, while Zipcar is for profit.

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