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

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Updated: Carsharing has officially come to Portland

Earlier this week, U Haul delivered Portland's first-ever shared cars to dedicated parking spots on Commercial and Elm Streets (next to the ferry terminal and Monument Square, respectively). As of this morning, U Car Share's online reservation system is active, and at least one Portlander (I think that Alex Landry got the first ride) has taken the new cars for a spin.

Portlanders can now sign up at www.ucarshare.com. Membership starts at $50 - about the cost of one oil change and tune up - and all gasoline, maintenance, and insurance costs are included in the hourly charge. Portland Greenstreets participants should check their latest newsletter for a limited-time free membership offer.

Here's a screenshot of U Car Share's newly-active reservations webpage:

Once you've made a reservation online, you can use your membership card to unlock the vehicle at the designated time and retrieve the keys to the ignition, which are stored inside.

Pictured at right are the two U Cars parked in their designated spots at Monument Square, across the street from the central METRO bus stop.

I can't say I'm very thrilled at U Car's choice of vehicle - a Chrysler PT Cruiser hatchback. If you could compare the American auto industry to a festering, cancerous colon (which shouldn't require too much imagination), then the PT Cruiser may earn a footnote in history as one of its pathetic, terminal turds.

It's also unfortunate that they also have Massachusetts license plates, which will make them even more embarrassing to drive them around here.

Still, I suppose that they're fairly utilitarian, with plenty of cargo space in spite of their small size. Maybe you can't save thousands of dollars in transportation costs in style, but the U Cars will get you around, without the time- and money-consuming hassles of car ownership. Being mistaken for a Masshole is a small price to pay in comparison.


Turbo said...

I hate to be a downer, but I think this is going to be a flop. Too expensive. Silly cars. Target license plates. And, does it make sense to permanently assign two prime parking spots to vehicles which will only be IN the spots most of the time if the scheme is a flop?

I have a better use for those two parking places (or a different two): free parking for 10 scooter commuters. Because, currently, there's no place downtown that you can legally, let alone cheaply, park a scooter for the day if you drive it to work...

Kevin Donoghue said...

Yeah, you're a downer. But scooter parking is already set for spring.

Unknown said...

This is a great service that has the potential to help reduce congestion and parking demands. It also makes it easier for people to make a rational choice not to own a vehicle.

However, people need to be aware of the liability they assume when they get behind the wheel of a vehicle. They also need to carefully review the protection that the car sharing service offers.

Our blog has a recent post about this that we hope your readers might find helpful. http://tinyurl.com/949c33