Car sharing in the Capital Region

zipcar portland

Zip Car's car sharing program is popular in other cities around the U.S.

By Lauren Alpert

soapbox badgeI'll admit it -- life in the capital region is a lot easier with a car.

A car makes going on that big shopping trip, going apple picking or going for a hike at Thacher State Park a lot more convenient. While CDTA buses are a good option to get to many destinations, public transit doesn't take you everywhere you need to go, so a car can be a necesssity.

But a car can also be a headache -- and a lot of expense. Think about the amount of time the car you're paying for and insuring sits idle -- just waiting for you to decide to go somewhere.

Bundle your insurance, gas, parking and maintenance costs together into an monthly rate and it can add up pretty quickly. $300 a month? $500?

That's one of the reasons we're working on car sharing in the Capital Region .

Last month a proposal for a car sharing program I'm working on came in 5th in the AOA/Sunmark Start-up Contest. We didn't win the grant, but we're still working on the project.

Why am I so passionate about this? Car sharing is estimated to take at least 7 personal vehicles off the road because car sharing members typically sell or defer getting their own private vehicle. It can also add a car as a transportation option for someone who can't afford or doesn't want to own their own car. Car sharing cannot only save members money but it decreases carbon emissions and congestion. It also encourages people to use transit, walk and bike more, improving the well being of the community. And with car sharing, instead of having two cars per household, you could have one car but gain access to a fleet of cars around the city and the region.

This is how it works:
1. You sign up to become a member of the organization
2. You make a reservation to use a car
3. You drive

That's pretty much it. Reservations can be made online or by phone and you return the vehicle to a parking spot assigned to that car sharing vehicle, the same spot you picked it up from. Members can join a car sharing organization at different membership tiers. The tiers are based on how much you expect to use the vehicle and a monthly fee is charged based on the tier.

Car sharing isn't just for huge cities like New York. Buffalo, Ithaca and Syracuse all have car sharing organizations. Why not the Capital Region? If we are serious about being a competitive, progressive place to live, shouldn't we have a variety of transportation choices?

If car sharing sounds like something you'd like to see in the Capital Region, you can lend your support to the effort on Tuesday night from 5 to 8 at the Albany Public Library's Main Branch at 161 Washington Ave. We're planning an open house to get input from the community.

There will opportunities for you to help shape the future of car sharing in the Capital Region and refreshments provided by one of last year's Sunmark Grant finalists, Baker's Intuition (formerly Co-original Creations).

You can find out more at the Capital Moves website, like it on Facebook and follow onTwitter.

Lauren wants to share a car with you.

photo: Flickr user Jason Rodriguez


I think that the Downtown/Center Square area of Albany would be perfect for a car sharing. When I lived there, I was car-free I could get to most places by CDTA, and it was awesome. Having easy access to a car would be the cherry on top to get to far out places.

This would be great for Albany!

I'm very much in favor of this. The group I work with, Capital District Transition Network, is all about getting people to remove themselves from their dependance on fossil fuels. Car sharing is a great way to cut down on the number of vehicles on the road and transition our society towards a more sustainable energy model. Perhaps we can help in some way? Let me know!


YES! Car sharing is brilliant. When I lived in Seattle, WA I was a member of Flexcar (which is now owned by Zipcar) and I loved it. At the time you paid a one time membership fee ($40) and I was a basic member - paying only when I wanted to use one of the cars. The rates were about $10 an hour and there were cars EVERYWHERE around the city - and all kinds of different vehicles, too - hybrids, sedans, vans, etc. Right before I had to leave Seattle they even got some Minis. I never got to drive one though. I am not sure about Zipcar, but Flexcar covered insurance (though if you were in a an accident there was up to a $1500 deductible) AND they paid for gas! And if you used the credit card (in the car) and filled up the tank while you had the car, you got a discount on your next rental. It was totally brilliant.

Unfortunately, I am no longer able to drive (due to physical disability/medications I am on) but I am still a HUGE supporter of car sharing. It makes so much sense - because owning a car IS an extremely expensive situation. The only way it works though is with everyone involved taking care of the cars properly (not being slobs) and returning the cars when and where they are supposed to (there were HEFTY fines for returning a car late).

My brother went car-less in Philly and now uses zip cars to go grocery shopping, among other things. They're perfect for people who live in cities and don't have cars, but need one once in a while.

This would be great for our area! My sister works with a woman who uses Zipcar in Providence, RI. She & her husband had 2 cars, but when one bit-the-dust they chose not to replace it. Having the option to have a 2nd car only on days that they truly need it works perfectly for them & they save a lot of money.

I would love to see car sharing come to the Capital Region. Last year at the Congress for the New Urbanism in Madison WI, I talked to two women who both work for car sharing organizations.

One of the really cool things I learned from them is that there is a thing called "peer-to-peer" car sharing. This is for really small cities like Troy, actually. Rather than have a fleet of cars that belong to the club and are parked in designated spots, members can sign up their car to become part of the peer-to-peer car sharing network. Other members go online to sign out your car and find out where it's parked. The insurance is covered by the car club and the car owner gets a little extra cash for renting out the car.

You can listen to that interview here:

KunstlerCast #160: Housing Market Crash Update & Car Sharing
Transitioning Away from Car Dependency
Released: June 16, 2011.

Starts at: 26:52

Hi Duncan,

We are actually looking at incorporating some peer to peer elements in the program we are developing here.

Thanks for the info. I'll take a listen to the podcast.

Hopefully we'll see you on Tuesday!


Heard an interesting presentation on Ithaca's car sharing program last week at ITS-NY meeting in Saratoga. It begins on page 71 of the linked PDF file.

We have Zipcar in Santa Cruz and it's a much smaller metro area here, with a public transportation system that isn't as good as CDTA. If it can work here, I don't understand why it couldn't in Albany. I think the number of colleges and college students would really help with providing a built-in customer base.

Great work! Keep up the ambition Lauren and it will get done!

Go get 'em Lauren. This is a great opportunity, long overdue!!

Lauren is my new hero!

I first started publicly dreaming of car sharing in our region back in 2007. Here's a link to all of my old blog posts yearning for the service because it would really help carfee me get around better(of course most of the links embedded in the posts are not good anymore because they are so OLD):

Now, serving as a Council Member, I see that car sharing can not only helps individuals who *currently* don't own cars, but it can help to reduce the number of cars on our streets, nasty greenhouse gas emissions, and encourage households with multiple cars, to get rid of a car or two or three...This saves neighbors money and helps to promote a more walkable, bikeable and sustainable community.

Cars are still useful. I continue to rent cars when I need them, and I'll really welcome a car sharing service coming to Albany -- especially one that is local.

This is a fabulous project. See you tonight!

There is car sharing in Albany! The University at Albany hosts cars through the Hertz on Demand program, and the program is completely open the the public. Yes getting to the cars is a little annoying considering they are on the Uptown Campus, but they are here, and you can use them! I believe there is a car at Alumni Quad also, but I'm not sure if they keep all of the cars during the summer. Check it out!

What ever happened to car sharing in Albany? I thought it might launch by now. It's WAY overdue here.

I would love to see this idea take off. Any word on further progress? Need any assistance getting this going (volunteers, fund raisers, etc.)?

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