PhillyCarShare Comes to Swat

The Prius in situ.

Non-profit organization PhillyCarShare recently placed their first “pod” in the Borough–a bright red Prius Liftback that members on the free plan can rent out for as low as $4.90 an hour on weekdays.

Members of Earthlust as well as Professor Mark Wallace’s “Swarthmore and Sustainability” class began expressing interest in PhillyCarShare in the spring of last year for primarily environmental reasons. PhillyCarShare estimates that each of their cars convinces 12 people to give up their own cars.

As JJ England ’09 wrote in an e-mail to Earthlust members, “Imagine replacing 12 cars with one very fuel efficient car and you can begin to see why this is environmentally friendly. That’s 11 cars that aren’t needed, 11 new parking spaces that won’t need to be paved, and 1 efficient car to replace all that ‘waste.'”

Even if you couldn’t give a hoot about the environment, you might appreciate saving money and trouble–with a free membership, you can drive the car for $4.90 an hour weekdays, $6.90 an hour weekends, with gas and insurance included. Marketing Project Manager Kathy Izumi has worked with multiple universities, and explains that in her experience, most students’ cars “sit unused 90% of the time… having access to a car on an hourly basis gives students freedom without the hassles and extra costs of maintenance.”

Indeed, our Tri-Co neighbors have already adopted the program to great success. Bryn Mawr received the first of its two Prius hatchbacks in September 2006, and Haverford began using Philly CarShare at the beginning of this school year. Izumi reports that the car at Haverford is already so popular that they are considering placing a second car there.

According to Community Relations Coordinator Stephanie Kruel, PhillyCarShare expects that cars will be reserved on average 10 hours a day, and “when they get close to or exceed that, we look to see if another car is needed.” She finds that since most college students “don’t have access to a car in the first place… it improves mobility.” You do have to reserve the car in advance, but reservations are often made only three hours ahead of time, making midnight Wawa trips a definite possibility.

In Swarthmore, it was decided that it would be better to have the car in a location that was accessible to both students and Borough residents–hence the location on South Chester Road across from the SEPTA station. Kruel explained that “whenever we start serving a new spot we put a Prius in… it’s our most popular model.” Over half of PhillyCarShare cars are hybrids.

The program has already attracted a variety of members in Swarthmore. Izumi wrote in an e-mail that “15 have identified themselves as Swarthmore students… [but] I have no way of telling if any of these students have already graduated.” 11 members/applicants have named Swarthmore College as their employer, and 13 more members/applicants are borough residents without college affiliation.

Want to increase those numbers? You can sign up at PhillyCarShare’s website. You must have a driver’s license and have been driving for at least two years without any major driving violations. If you’re over 21, PhillyCarShare will cover all your insurance, but if you’re under 21, you’ll need minimal insurance coverage to join.

When they process your application, you’ll receive a key to not only Swarthmore’s sporty hybrid, but hundreds of cars throughout the Philadelphia area. Free memberships can rent cars at $4.90 an hour weekdays, $6.90 weekends, and a $15 per month membership can rent at $2.90 and $4.90 respectively.

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