Sunday Video: Living Car-Free Made Easy

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Jason Slaughter of Not Just Bikes explains how carsharing can be a good supplement for people who occasionally need a car but otherwise rarely use a car. He also discusses his rule that people don’t need a car if they don’t drive to work.

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Stephen is an urban planner with a passion for sustainable, livable, and diverse cities. He is especially interested in how policies, regulations, and programs can promote positive outcomes for communities. Stephen lives in Kenmore and primarily covers land use and transportation issues for The Urbanist.

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It’s a great video. My biggest takeaway is that carsharing only really works when the cars are close enough for you to just walk to. The moment getting to a car requires hopping across town on a bus, the whole thing becomes a huge hassle, and starts to make car ownership attractive, even if it’s significantly more expensive, because it avoids that hassle.

In Amsterdam, this problem appears to be a complete non-issue, but in Seattle, much less so. For years, the only service available was Zipcar, which was largely confined to the city center. Car2Go (replaced with Gig) cover a much wider swath of the city, but the Eastside is still limited to just a small number of Zipcar vehicles, the way Seattle was 15 years ago. Downtown Kirkland has zero carsharing whatsoever. Same with Crossroads and Overlake, in spite of having a large concentration of residents, retail, and jobs. Downtown Redmond has just two cars and, if they’re both booked, you’re out of luck.

To an extent, traditional rental companies can fill in the gap, but limited office hours is a hidden factor that can make it difficult/expensive. For instance, if you want to take an all-day trip into the mountains on a Sunday, but the weekend hours are limited to just 9 AM-noon Saturday, now the one-day trip requires renting the car for two days. And with current prices in excess of $100/day after taxes, fees, and insurance, the trip ends up costing north of $200. Repeat that just 2-3 times per month and the entire monetary savings of renting cars vs. owning them evaporates.