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Jun 202008

By Harriet Blake

As a LEED-accredited engineer and leader of the sustainable design initiative for AKF Engineers, Robert Diemer is a believer in the green movement. He helps create greener buildings. He takes public transportation to work.

PhillyCarShare’s 50,000th memberRecently, Diemer took his commitment to an even higher level by becoming the 50,000th member of PhillyCarShare. With the price of gas topping $4 a gallon, car sharing is a win-win situation for those who need a car just some of the time. PhillyCarShare, like its Boston and D.C. counterparts, GoLoco and Flexcar (both of which merged with Zipcar), PhillyCarShare takes the hassle out of owning a car in the city.

In addition to signing up for himself, Diemer signed up his company as a corporate member.

“My primary motivation,” says Diemer, who lives in nearby Cherry Hill, N.J., “was to provide employees with access to a car while in the office so they could continue to take public transportation to and from work. We use cars a lot for the job.” With the car-sharing arrangement, the the company’s 40 employees can come from their suburban and urban homes without worrying about needing their personal car during the workday, a perk for them as well as a carbon-saving arrangement.

Diemer says he’s been a longtime admirer of PhillyCarShare and likes the fact that members have access to different types of vehicles, including pickups and hybrids.

PhillyCarShare logo is a familiar sightReducing his carbon footprint is important to Diemer: “As a partner with AKF Engineers, I’m often called on to go to meetings outside the office. With PhillyCarShare I reduce my driving by not taking my car into the city, but I still have access to a car for meetings.”

PhillyCarShare was founded by five University of Pennsylvania grads who eventually all made their homes in the Philadelphia area. Being urban dwellers and concerned about the effects of too many vehicles on the environment, the friends started the nonprofit car service, modeled after CityCarShare in San Francisco. Using San Fran’s technology, the five began their company with just pocket change, says one founder Clayton Lane, who is now the company’s deputy executive director.

“We started with just $25,000 and worked as volunteers out of an apartment in Philadelphia. We did everything from answering the phone at 2 in the morning to changing flat tires and washing the cars,” Lane recalls. The company, which started in November of 2002, had more than 500 members by the end of 2003.

“Once we were able to document that members of PhillyCarShare were driving less and thereby keeping more cars off the road, we took this information and applied for grant money. A couple of years later, we had between 2,000 and 3,000 members, “ says Lane. Currently, there are similar car-sharing services in 15 major markets in the United States, he says.

PhillyCarShare offers some unique aspects to its service that some of the other car service companies do not. Half of their car fleet are hybrids. They’ve also opened eligibility to 18-year-olds. The latter makes a lot of sense, says Lane.

“Next to Boston, Philly has the largest college market. Today’s students have almost everything they need on campus, except for a car. The good part about our company is that a student doesn’t have to own a car at school, instead they can use us.”

Another unique aspect of PhillyCarShare, says Lane, is that “we’re available on almost every block in Philadelphia. As for parking, we can park our cars closer than you can park your own cars.”

What about suburbanites? PhillyCarshare sounds great for the urban dweller, but what about folks who want to reduce their carbon footprint but live 30 to 40 minutes away?
Those people, says Lane, can use public transportation to reach the city and then use a PhillyCarShare to attend to business in or outside of the city, knowing that they’re not adding more miles to their own vehicle, similar to what their 50,000th member, Robert Diemer, is doing. Currently, SEPTA (the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) collaborates with PhillyCarshare by allowing members to use SEPTA for free in order to reach the rental cars.

Lane says his company likes to view car sharing as an extension of public transportation in the Greater Philadelphia area, with a metro population of nearly 6 million. Reservations are booked with a credit card, online or by phone. PhillyCarShare has its own payment system, which Lane describes as a debit account system. Members must pay up front.

“PhillyCarShaThe PhillyCarShare fleetre is free to join, but you pay to drive,” he says. Rental rates start at $3.90 per hour or $39 per day. Lane adds that the company’s fleet includes close to 500 cars in more than 200 locations.

Members receive a personal electronic key. Upon reaching the rental car, the member holds the electronic key to a reader attached to the car. This allows the member to open the car where they will find a ignition key waiting. If someone were to break into the car, and try to start the engine with that key, the ignition wouldn’t work – it only works unless the car has processed the electronic key info first.

Choice of vehicle is another popular element of PhillyCarShare. As their website states, there’s “a model for your every mood.” Car selections include sporty vehicles such as Mini Coopers and convertibles, utilitarian models such as a pick-up as well as a variety of Prius hybrids, minivans, Volvos, BMWs and even luxury Lexuses.

Car services like PhillyCarShare may not work for everyone’s lifestyle, says Lane. “It does work for folks who can get to work without a car.” And for those willing to go the extra mile for the environment.

Copyright © 2008 | Distributed by Noofangle Media