Car-sharing, the Third Way

At September’s East Campus forum, we reiterated that the campus and surrounding road network could not possibly handle the traffic if yet more students brought their cars. The administrators nodded with approval, but then we noted that the incentives to bringing a car to campus are indeed very strong as there are no grocery stores within walking distance. No, this is not the consequence of a suburban location, as one can easily live without a car in downtown Bethesda or Silver Spring.

Enter Flexcar. Years after the car-sharing service came to Washington, we at the university finally got a taste of its convenience on campus. Though the $9/hour rental rate may seem steep, it’s actually quite sensible to the occasional driver considering the following benefits:

  • There are no mileage limitations.
  • Flexcar pays for gas.
  • Membership includes insurance.
  • One needn’t bother with buying a parking permit.
  • It’s the Flexcar, not the student’s private vehicle, that is subject to P.G.’s astronomical car theft rate.

Although it’s somewhat taboo in America’s rental car industry to rent to any driver under 25 (and absolutely taboo to rent to any driver under 21), Flexcar is even willing to rent to adults under 21, so long as they meet several requirements and pay a refundable $250 deposit. (Adults 21 and older need not pay a deposit.)

On the occasions we’ve used Flexcar, we were very pleased and the only problems we’ve faced were during booking last-minute trips in the afternoon, when it often seems that every car on campus is taken for several hours straight. We’d like to see more Flexcars on campus and perhaps the university could use a tiny fraction of the parking fine revenues to sweeten the deal for the Seattle-based Flexcar. After all, it’s the university, and not Flexcar, that has the stronger interest in improving the quality of campus life.

The District, by the way, uses specially-painted parking spaces and stylish signs (above) to increase public awareness of its car-sharing programs.