Saturday, June 9, 2012

Car Sharing

Lane Community College is committed to the principles of sustainability. When it embarked upon its new Downtown Campus project, one of those precepts was to promote alternatives to car ownership and use. One such alternative is car sharing, which the college has embraced. 

In a nutshell, car sharing is a system under which many people share a pool of automobiles, either through cooperative ownership or through some other mechanism. The benefits of car sharing are acknowledged by the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system. The strategy is one of several means possible to qualify for LEED credit SSc4.3 – Alternative Transportation, the others being preferred parking for low-emitting and fuel-efficient vehicles, alternative fuel fueling stations, and providing a number of low-emitting and fuel-efficient vehicles equivalent to 3% of the project’s full-time equivalent occupants. 

Because the college’s ambitious project is targeting Gold and Platinum-level certification (1), there was never a doubt that sustainable site strategies would figure prominently in its development. The selection of the site itself was perhaps most important. Its immediate adjacency to the Lane Transit District Downtown Station and also to the City of Eugene’s Broadway Place parking structure (with its surplus capacity of parking spaces and installation of preferred parking and alternative fuel stations) ensured the new Downtown Campus would maximize its Alternative Transportation credits. The recent introduction of WeCars in the Broadway Place parking structure means that LCC students and staff will also enjoy a car-sharing option. 

An affiliate of Enterprise Rent-a-Car, WeCar mobilizes its members with short-term rentals of fuel-efficient, hybrid, and plug-in vehicles. For a minimum of one hour, drivers borrow cars for errands or business meetings at an hourly or daily rate that includes gas, basic insurance coverage, and up to 200 miles per use. The program is perfect for people who don't have a car but need one for certain trips that aren't reasonable by bus or other mass transit.

One published definition of car sharing characterizes it as the “missing link” in transportation options because of its far-reaching and interrelated benefits. Car sharing reduces traffic congestion and demand for parking, which leads to more compact urban development. Because car-share vehicles are usually newer, more fuel-efficient vehicles, there is also a considerable reduction of gasoline consumption and harmful emissions.

The Lane Transit District avidly supports car sharing through its Point2Point Solutions program and was partly responsible for coordinating WeCar’s introduction to Eugene. The agency secured a grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation to help make the program affordable to local users. Because of the grant, WeCar is able to waive the $20 dollar application fee and reduce the annual membership fee from $50 dollars to $25 dollars for the first year. Each driver who signs up also receives $50 in mileage credits. Anyone who is interested in becoming a member of WeCar can sign up online at

As the costs of car ownership (to individuals, society, and the environment) continue to rise, car sharing will increasingly become a preferred transportation option for many of us. Lane Community College, the City of Eugene, and Lane Transit District all recognize the benefits of and imperative for this transportation alternative. Inevitably as resources dwindle, the American dream of two cars in every garage will give way to a different vision in which the availability of viable transportation alternatives is most highly valued. Car sharing will undoubtedly help define this new transportation paradigm. 

(1)  The academic component of the project is set to achieve LEED Platinum while the student housing is targeted for LEED Gold certification.

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