Moving toward car-free living in the City of Trees
by Buffy Naillon
According to the United Nations Population Fund, almost five billion people will live in the world’s cities and towns by the year 2030. City growth now vastly outpaces suburban and rural growth, which is leading to a new set of challenges. In smaller metro areas like Boise, the numbers are growing at an even faster rate. If anything is likely to put Boise on the fast track for traffic jams, this is it.
Many communities solve these problems by using a split strategy. The first component is the development of mixed-use communities, which allow people to shop, work, and live in the same place, cutting down on commutes. Alternative modes of transportation like carsharing make up the second component. These solutions work in tandem, and together can effectively reduce the stress population rise puts on a community.
“We see carshare as a complement and as an extension to mass transit or those other forms of sharing programs like bikeshare, for instance,” said Enterprise spokesperson Greg Phillips.
And carsharing is an effective means of reducing the number of cars on the road. Dr. Susan Shaheen, Co-Director at the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at Berkeley, recently conducted a study of 9,500 carshare members. Twentyfive percent of the people who took part in the study said that they got rid of a car or decided not to buy one as a direct result of carsharing programs. This led researchers to conclude that “one carsharing vehicle replaces 9 to 13 vehicles among carsharing members because their vehicles were sold or they postponed purchasing vehicles.”
For those unfamiliar with carsharing, it’s a kind of short-term car rental. Carshare members usually rent the cars for a couple of hours. Boise State has a program through Enterprise, and Enterprise’s program is one of many that exist worldwide. A more popular service with millennials, and one you may have heard of in the news is Zipcar. While the specifics of each service vary, the basic idea is the same.
At Boise State, carshare members rent the cars online, then pick them up at their designated spots on campus. Users swipe their Enterprise-issued membership card across an electronic box on the windshield to get into the car, with the keys waiting inside. Gas and insurance are included in the rental price.
Currently, it costs around $8.00 per hour during the week to rent one of these cars at BSU, with weekends costing a bit more. Although the cars are parked at the university, it isn’t necessary to be a member of the faculty or a student to use them.
At the moment, the BSU carsharing program is the only one in Boise—although other services are expanding quickly across the nation. In light of this, Boiseans face some challenges if they want to live partially or fully car-free. Most people need a car to get to work. The buses only run until 6:00 and have limited weekend hours, making mass-transit a difficult service to use for some. While the carsharing service offers an affordable alternative, one needs to live or be in close enough proximity to BSU to pick up the cars.
Despite the challenges, it’s still possible to embrace carsharing in Boise, starting with the people who are already near BSU on a regular basis. Some use the cars during their lunch breaks as a quick and convenient way to run errands. Students and faculty, who are on campus for long stretches of time, can use the cars for almost everything they might need, and so far it’s proving to be a popular idea.
As carsharing catches on, Boise may expand to become like other communities that embrace the concept. Carsharing spots in other cities are placed throughout the community and often include memberships not only to carsharing, but bikesharing as well as the mass-transit system. With the combination of various alternative forms of transportation, including the innovative carsharing program, Boise and other metropolitan areas may continue to expand safely and without frustrating traffic jams.
Learn more about Enterprise’s Carshare Program at enterprisecarshare.com.