Car sharing coming to Central Corridor LRT
Residents along the Central Corridor Light Rail Transit line are going to have a little easier time going car-free.
St. Paul-based Hourcar announced this week that it will add 31 new shared vehicles in St. Paul and Minneapolis over the next year, with many of them situated along the 11-mile Central Corridor LRT line set to open in mid-2014.
The vehicles – Toyota Priuses as well as minivans and trucks – will begin rolling out in May and are available to HOURCAR members who pay a membership fee of $5 to $15 a month. The vehicles rent for $6 to $8 an hour, plus gas (membership details here).
Chris Duffrin, executive director of the Neighborhood Energy Connection, which oversees the non-profit Hourcar program, said the expansion is designed to complement the Central Corridor LRT line and give residents more freedom to give up their vehicles.
Exact locations won’t be disclosed until the roll out begins in May, but vehicles are expected to land in downtown St. Paul and in several neighborhood locations along the LRT line.
“We’re the thing that will make car ownership irrelevant for a lot of people along the corridor,” Duffrin said.
Another car sharing service, ZipCar, now serves the University of Minnesota but the school is looking to issue a request for proposals that could allow Hourcar to move into the campus area. Students can join Hourcar for an annual fee of $35.
The city of Minneapolis is meanwhile considering a two-year pilot program that would allow car sharing services access to off-street parking spaces in an effort to increase their visibility.
The expansion marks the largest year-over-year growth since Hourcar began in the Twin Cities eight years ago with 15 shared vehicles. The car sharing service now has 39 vehicles at 35 locations.
Duffrin said interest has grown rapidly in recent years and that there are now around 1,900 members using Hourcar.
“We feel like we’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg and that there is still a lot more potential demand out there to fill,” he said.
The latest expansion is being funded with $500,000 in grants from the McKnight Foundation and the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative as well as Hourcar member fees.
A recent review of car sharing services in metro areas identified New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Portland as the country’s top car-sharing cities. The New York Times reported in January that 800,000 people belonged to car-sharing services in the U.S. last year, a 44 percent increase from 2011.
Working on the Railroad
by Drew Kerr
March 7th, 2013