A blog for better streets and public spaces in Portland, Maine.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Carsharing skips over Portland, arrives in Lewiston

Zipcar, a car-sharing company that liberates thousands of city-dwellers nationwide from the hassles of car ownership, has brought two shared cars to the Bates College campus in Lewiston. Anyone in the neighborhood will now be able to reserve the cars at an hourly rate: gas and insurance are all included, and there's a $35 annual membership fee.

For anyone who doesn't need a car every day, carsharing can save hundreds to thousands of dollars compared to the alternative of storing and maintaining your own automobile. It makes sense for most college students, of which Lewiston has 1800 at Bates. But it also makes sense for hundreds of island residents in Portland, and for the thousands of people who struggle with parking in the Portland peninsula's close-in, walkable neighborhoods, and for the thousands of additional students who attend USM.

Why did Zipcar pass over Portland to open its first carsharing franchise in Lewiston? I suspect that someone at Bates took the initiative to invite the company and plunk down the necessary investment, and now I'm envious. I want a Zipcar, or a Flexcar, or a home-grown PortCar here in my neighborhood.

When I'd first arrived back in Portland and was temping, I'd given some serious thought to starting up our own carsharing service here. Real work intervened, and I didn't have any money to start a business anyhow. But I do have more savings now, and I'm more convinced than ever that a carsharing business can thrive here, as well as in a number of coastal communities that serve car-free island residents. Anyone want to pool resources and catch us up with cosmopolitan Lewiston?

Lewiston Sun-Journal: Hourly Car Rental Arrives in Lewiston

ZipCar: Bates

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