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Car-sharing offers people the ability to rent a car or truck, often a hybrid, for a time period of less than a day, and for an affordable amount that includes insurance and fuel. For many people car ownership isn’t required for day-to-day activities, but they maintain ownership in case they need to run an errand, go to a client meeting, or simple go for a drive, but with this luxury comes a high price-tag. AAA estimates the cost of car ownership at $8,487 per year, in 2009, so the ability to scale back on ownership could allow people to receive significant cost savings while maintaining their level of mobility.
In Milwaukee, Zipcar, a car-sharing service out of Boston, has been operating for a couple of years with vehicles available at UWM to students and East Side residents. And recently, the Business Journal reported that Zipcar is bringing this service to a wider portion of Milwaukee by expanding its service to Marquette‘s campus. But despite this expansion the service area is fairly limited within the city.
In its current state, the environmental and cost-saving benefits of the system are limited, but there are ways for the City of Milwaukee to participate that will bring additional benefits to the city. First, Milwaukee could implement a program similar to Portland, OR where the city has dedicated a small amount of on-street parking spots for car-sharing vehicles. This would bring the cars right in to the neighborhood, allowing the service to reach a much wider audience. Secondly, the City of Milwaukee could utilize the Zipcar service to privatize part of the city’s vehicle fleet. For example, in New York
a pilot program of 25 vehicles is estimated to save the city $500,000 over five years, in reduced maintenance, fuel, and vehicle acquisition costs. This program has the added benefit of allowing city residents to use these vehicles as regular car-sharing vehicles during evenings and weekends. A collaboration between the City of Milwaukee and a private car-sharing service could bring new benefits to residents, be environmentally friendly, and reduce costs for residents and the city alike.