Uptown car-sharing program accepting membership applications

HOURCAR, the metro's first car-sharing program, has begun accepting membership applications at www.hourcar.org. Members can begin sharing the program's cars in June.

The program's goals are to lower the cost of car use for people who can't or don't want to buy a car, and to reduce emissions by exclusively using high-mileage Toyota Prius hybrids.

Driver/members can reserve cars by phone or online and pick them up from a hub station for use. Cars are available to members 24 hours a day.

The Uptown station is located at Calhoun Square's parking ramp (West 31st Street & Girard Avenue South). Another Minneapolis station is at the Loring Municipal Parking Ramp at West Grant Street & Nicollet Mall. The program will also have a St. Paul hub.

Like a rental car, HOURCARs must be returned with a full tank of gas - however, the program pays for it via a fuel card in the car drivers can use. Members receive a monthly bill for their car use.

Insurance is included in the membership and rental fees, so drivers don't need their own policies. However, drivers must meet certain requirements: they must sign a contract and take a class, and their driving records are analyzed for accidents, violations and alcohol incidents.

If approved, drivers pay an introductory fee of $150, in addition to monthly dues, which range in price depending on the anticipated level of car usage and a per-mile charge.

For example, the "standard plan" costs $5 a month, plus $6.95 per hour and 45 cents per mile. The "value plan" costs $20 a month, $4.95 per hour and 39 cents per mile. Gas and insurance are included, and in both plans, cars cost $2.95 per hour if rented between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.

The program offers six Priuses, with six more possible in August, said Mary Morse, executive director of the St. Paul Neighborhood Energy Consortium, the program's founder and administrator.

For more, visit www.hourcar.org.