The high price of gasoline has set me thinking. I am considering giving up my car which is a huge decision because I have been transportation independent since age 25. I live in a a wonderful cohousing group (Daybreak Cohousing) in Portland, Oregon and because we know each other, trust each other, and are supporting each other in living more sustainably, we are also doing a lot of car-sharing. Taking a car to downtown Portland (where I am teaching a class) has no appeal with the high price of parking and the congestion of downtown, so I always take public transport there (we are on the buslines and the light rail lines). My car simply sits at the curb most of the time. But there is the occasional time when I need to get across town fast or to a remote point where public transport just isn't easy to use. So I don't want to be stuck. A few of us in cohousing are talking about setting up our own car-sharing arrangement. We will all be responsible for the car and upkeep of just one car instead of three. Only insurance for one car, not three. I haven't taken the big plunge yet, but I am moving much closer to the idea. When I want to take a long distance trip, the price of renting a car is really not that much different than all the insurance and upkeep expenses I pay now to have my car sit unusued . I don't think I will be driving more when I am retired. Living in cohousing is one of the reasons that I can even make this kind of decision. I know I will have neighbors to call on in times of emergency.
>>shouldn't own a car>>
Very few people are in such a position. Many city transit systems are inadequate, especially in the West, where they are geared to commuters, not to emergency services or outlying areas besides the downtown business district. With severe budget cutbacks many bus lines do not run 24 hrs a day, and go through neighborhoods where safety is a real and critical issue. There is a neighborhood in San Francisco where the BUS DRIVERS are trying to refuse driving through at night because there have been so many, and some extremely serious, attacks on both drivers and passengers.
Taxis don't always come when you call. And ZipCars are wonderful, but you need to reserve in advance. In our neighborhood, we feel perfectly safe (and have been for over 20 yrs) but Enterprise Rent-a-Car won't come and deliver a car here.
The issue with sharing cars, however, is liability. Very few auto insurers are going to be happy with six different drivers in separate homes driving one car. I might be wrong, but I'd run this by an insurance agent as a preliminary inquiry before going any further. As the law stands now, the owner of the car is liable no matter who drives it - which means I for one, would not want other people driving my car on a regular basis.
It hasn't passed yet (to my knowledge), but Oregon is working on an insurance change that would make it feasible for more people to share one car. The purpose of the reform is to get people into more car-sharing arrangements. I agree that I would not want just any one driving my car, nor do I want to drive just anybody else's car (what if they hadn't kept it up and I ended up breaking down in an inconvient place). That is exactly a reason co-housing would make this kind of sharing of resources feasible. We do know our other cohousing members very well, and I do trust them with driving my car. The nice thing is that I can make an arrangement with a small group, all of whom trust each other, but we would not be required to admit just anyone to the car-sharing arrangement. We are already sharing cars on a pretty regular basis. Since most Americans have learned how to drive, that isn't an issue. I'm going on a business trip soon and I'll have bargained with a member who doesn't have a car, but who could use one occasionally. He'll take me to the airport very early in the morning, and come and pick me up when my flight returns, and in the meantime he will have use of the car. Beneficial for both of us.
Cities just have to get clearer on the fact that an aging population is going to be more dependent on public transportation. At this time of cutting all the services to low-income people, public transportation gets lumped in there also. Sure, millionaires can just hire chauffeurs when they get beyond the driving age. We need to work for better public transporation. We are going to need it. This is one of the reasons I chose Portland, Oregon. Lots of good, interconnecting public transportation. I think with Portland's public transporation and the support I get by living in cohousing, I will have a lower chance of being isolated out in the suburbs when I can't drive 10 or 15 miles to a grocery store.
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