Car sharing services merge: will it matter?

The news today (link, link, link) among the car-free sort is Zipcar is buying out Flexcar. There’s some rumor that Flexcar has been troubled financially, but I read it as a loss of choice, value and quality for those in Washington, D.C. moving away from car ownership. Especially if you’re under 25, and without a good option to rent a car from a traditional agency.

But I doubt the change will mean much to Hubby and me. We started out both as Flexcar subscribers a couple of years ago when we sent our car to live on a farm with other old cars. Each adult needs a membership but Jonathan is a better driver than I am, so he drove us here and there and to IKEA as needed. Then after a year of never renting a car, I canceled my subscription, and I’m not sure how many times he’s gotten a car since. Twice?

Living so far downtown, within walking distance to both jobs, has moved us from car owners to car borrowers to occasional transit users. We pay more in rent than we might, but we pay much less in transportation costs. Combined — and that’s not a bad way to account for the cost of housing — we’re getting a bargain. I can’t imagine doing otherwise. It isn’t perfect, but the living arrangement we have is not unlike the life one adopts (if only in part) when visiting foreign cities, and that’s so often the highlight of going abroad.

The question is this: how can this be a better option for more Americans? That is, life without obligatory car use.

5 Replies to “Car sharing services merge: will it matter?”

  1. So it seems to me that what makes this work for you guys are these elements:

    a. you live near where you work (and seem to have stable employment that doesn’t require car travel) and use consumer services;
    b. you have access to public transportation for some trips; and
    c. you have access to flexcar for other trips.

  2. DJ works for FlexCar. The future of FlexCar staff in the DC office –now, technically, ZipCar employees– is indeterminate for now. He has some relative security through the merger, but there’s no telling after that–particularly since the corporate office is in Cambridge, MA. (FlexCar is from Seattle but had quite a few operations in DC.)

  3. @Per. I’m sorry to hear about DJ’s situation.

    @Ms. Th. I appreciate your reply; yes, your choice of employment is an issue. Indeed, I think the ministry-per-usual might fall in that category.

    I think these are probably the real priorities.

    a. access to the basics within one’s “walkshed” — 10 minutes/0.5 miles — including a place to buy food, get your prescriptions and a snack. Connection to transit too. We have all of these and then some, incl. two metro stations.

    b. easy access to work or daily activities by reliable transit. Alternate shopping, too. My last job was a 45 minute bus ride, but I didn’t have to change lines and buses came every 10-12 minutes. We can get to Target by transit, though that’s not the charm it used to be.

    c. Then access to cabs and a car. As it happens, we have at least one car rental place in our walkshed, but its closed on Sunday, so Flex/Zipcar will continue to help there.

    It helps to know where your need can be met; reliance on walking and transit changes your sense of what is near and far. And your tolerance for walking itself. (Jonathan and I walked home from the Morrissey concert the other night: 1.6 miles and didn’t blink.)

    d. It also means you’re always on the lookout — if only passively — for that one thing you can only get in the suburbs, like a Vietnamese deli or a cheap Korean tofu restaurant.

  4. I think my parents actually have a, b, and c and they live in an older (late 1960s) California suburb. So it’s not impossible to find some of that in the ‘burbs.

  5. It also helps to live near family and friends, or within easy driving distance (if they are willing to pick you up). I didn’t own a car for years and during that time I grew apart from my family, who lived 10-20 miles away. The number one reason I live in the ‘burbs now is to be close to them.

    Currently, the LH and I share one car and it’s a plain, 33mpg, inexpensive sedan that was paid off years ago.

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