Wednesday, February 10, 2016

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 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.


Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
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