Friday, October 24, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Getting around: What's mine is yours

What's wrong with this picture: I drive my Prius to work in the morning. I work all day at my desk. (Okay, as a reporter, I frequently go out, but let's just say ... ) Then I drive home at night.

Getting around: What's mine is yours

RelayRides founder Shelby Clark. (RelayRides photo)
RelayRides founder Shelby Clark. (RelayRides photo)

What's wrong with this picture: I drive my Prius to work in the morning.  I work all day at my desk. (Okay, as a reporter, I frequently go out, but let's just say ... ) Then I drive home at night.

And all that time, the car is just loitering out there in the parking lot. When, instead, IT COULD BE MAKING ME MONEY!

That's part of the logic behind RelayRides, a user-to-user version, or perhaps an owner-to-renter version, of ZipCar and PhillyCarShare. Instead of a central organization maintaining a car fleet, people simply sign up to share their car with their neighbors, coworkers, etc.

The service launched in Boston in 2010 and, as of Monday, expanded nationwide.

The broader concept is certainly spreading.  Also in 2010, the website www.neighborgoods.net formed, through which people can borrow and lend all sorts of household equipment, from ladders to snow blowers to company coffee urns. Why should every household own all this stuff that is only used rarely, when neighbors can share?

"Story of Stuff" author Annie Leonard once described to me a less formal version among a group of neighbors with six houses, shared back yards and 14 kids. One person had a truck. Another a big ladder. A third a barbecue grill. Yet another put in the block's swing set. 

"It's not about deprivation," she said, trying to explain the concept of non-ownership to her daughter, then 10. "It's about balance."

So why, indeed, shouldn't we share our cars? Or, as in this case, rent them?

According to the RelayRides info, the owner sets the price.  The renter has to get the keys, so the owner presumably sees if they're dripping wet or trailing sawdust or drunk.

The company, founded in 2010 by Shelby Clark, cites research by the Gartner firm showing that 10 percent of the U.S. urban population will use shared cars instead of personally owned vehicles.

RR's prediction is that for every car currently enrolled in a car sharing program, 14 are removed from the road, "making it an environmentally friendly alternative."  I'm not quite sure I follow that logic. We're all driving the same miles, just supposedly in fewer cars, which does save the resources to make the cars. But also, presumably, the more miles my car has, the sooner it bites the dust and has to be replaced. But anyway....

For kudos, the company presents Curtis Chong, location unmentioned, who has made more than r $5,300 since enrolling his 2006 Honda Civic in RelayRides about nine months ago. “The last time I checked Kelley Blue Book, my Civic was worth about $4,800,” said Chong in a company press release. “Thanks to RelayRides, I got a free car, and it continues to print cash—plus, I feel great that I’m helping out a neighbor! What’s not to like?”

For more details about RelayRides, including an OnStar innovation making key exchanges unnecessary, see this blog post by my Daily News colleague, Jonathan Takiff.

 

Sandy Bauers Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
About this blog

GreenSpace is about environmental issues and green living. Bauers also writes a biweekly GreenSpace column about environmental health issues for the Inquirer’s Sunday “Health” section.

Sandy Bauers is the environment reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where she has worked for more than 20 years as a reporter and editor. She lives in northern Chester County with her husband, two cats, a large vegetable garden and a flock of pet chickens.

Reach Sandy at sbauers@phillynews.com.

Sandy Bauers Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
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