“It’s a neighborhood car,” said Nnenna Ferguson, the marketing coordinator for Capital CarShare. She was referring to a shiny red Prius in the parking lot, but also to five other cars that are available to the public through the new carshare program. For a small monthly fee, members can rent a car for a day, an hour, or any increment in between. The cars are managed electronically from several hubs in Albany neighborhoods. Signing up is easy, and members can reserve the cars online or by phone.
On Monday (Aug. 11), Ferguson gave a presentation about business memberships to the organizations at 255 Orange St., a small-business incubator and community development facility in Sheridan Hollow. The building’s parking lot serves as a CCS hub. The facility also houses the Community Loan Fund, which gave the new carshare a $114,000 loan to purchase its first six cars, all compact, fuel-efficient models.
“We hope to have 12 cars by next year,” Ferguson said. CCS is averaging one or two sign-ups per day, and it isn’t even officially in business yet, though it’s been operational since June. The non-profit has been introducing carsharing to the market, working out some small glitches, and “getting our feet wet,” said Ferguson.
Membership requires a driver’s license in good standing but the carshare does not conduct financial background checks. Although day rates are comparable to car rental agencies, car sharing does not require a deposit, which most rental agencies do, sometimes for hundreds of dollars that are held for several days. CCS membership includes gas, maintenance and insurance (the fee to lower the deductible from $500 to $100 is $1) and mileage for 50 or 100 miles per rental. Cars are available around the clock.
“Private ownership may not be the best option, for lifestyle reasons or financial reasons,” said Ferguson. “But with CarShare, a car is there if you need it.”
According to AAA’s 2014 report, a mid-size sedan costs an average of $9,000 per year to own and operate.
It’s estimated that one rental car can replace 15 individual cars, and many carshare members have reduced the number of cars in their households. City CarShare in San Francisco, an early carshare program begun in 2001, states that carsharing results in fewer cars on the road, fewer parking lots, and less pollution and congestion.
“I’ve always found Albany an easy city to get around without a car, and it’s getting easier,” said Jay Kibby, who lives in Center Square. “I don’t plan to buy another car.”
A CarShare member since June, Kibby said that for him, the biggest advantage of carsharing is flexibility. “I still use rental agencies, it’s not one or the other,” he said. “If I’m going out of town or going a long distance, it makes sense to rent a car, because it’s a little cheaper, and they include unlimited mileage. But with CarShare I can use it for only a couple of hours, I’m not locked in for a full day.”
Kibby moved to Albany from Vermont, where a car was a necessity and the nearest store was a 45-minute walk. He gave up his car about a year after moving. “I found I wasn’t using it, and I was driving across the street twice a week just to avoid parking bans.”
He especially likes the convenience of CCS. “I don’t need to put a deposit down. I just reserve a car, it’s there, I pick it up, no waiting in line.” He sometimes uses the hub nearest his home, and sometimes the hub closest to his library job at the College of Saint Rose.
Kibby also noted that rental agencies can be difficult for students and other people whose home address may be different than the address on their driver’s license, or who don’t have a credit card or proof of address such as a utility bill to use with a debit card.
Capital CarShare is modeled after Buffalo CarShare, which emphasizes the social benefits of carsharing, such as making it possible for people to get to a job interview or drop off their kids at day care on a snow day.
“I think it’s a wonderful idea,” said Rocky Mann after Monday’s carshare presentation.
The owner of a construction company operating from 255 Orange St., Mann explained that he had wanted to hire some workers from Schenectady and Albany for a big contract with the chip factory in Malta, but they didn’t have transportation so he hired workers who did. With a CCS business membership, he said, he could carpool workers to and from work sites.
Capital CarShare will officially launch on Thursday, Aug. 21, with a press event with Mayor Kathy Sheehan at City Hall at 10 am, and a block party at the First Lutheran Church on Western Avenue with CCS partners, including CDTA, at 4 pm.
“I feel like we are impacting the community in a way that people didn’t think was possible, in terms of adding an additional public transit option to people who are either choosing not to own a car or who simply can’t afford one,” said Ferguson.
“That’s our biggest impact,” she added. “Giving people the opportunity to go places they couldn’t go before, and not be limited by not owning a vehicle.”