Council committee passes contract with car-sharing program

The city's Health, Energy and Environment Committee has approved a city contract with HOURCAR, a car-sharing program managed by a St. Paul nonprofit.

The contract, approved by the panel Jan. 19, would give city employees access to HOURCAR's fleet of Toyota Prius hybrids. The car-sharing program has hubs at 11 Twin Cities locations, including three in the Downtown area and five in Southwest.

Employees with the city's Environmental Management and Safety Division will use a car at the Minneapolis Depot hub at Washington Avenue South & Fifth Avenue.

HOURCAR users are billed on a monthly basis for time and mileage. The Neighborhood Energy Consortium, manager of the program, pays insurance.

Between five and 10 employees with the city's Environmental Management and Safety Division will participate, said Gayle Prest, manager of environmental services.

Councilmember Scott Benson (11th Ward), chair of the Council's Health, Energy and Environment Committee, said the HOURCAR contract gives the city an opportunity to use energy-efficient cars without buying the hybrid models. The Toyota Prius costs about $20,000.

The city's eventual goal is to decrease the size of its fleet, Benson said.

Mary Morse, executive director of the Neighborhood Energy Consortium, said HOURCAR has about 100 users. The program launched in June 2005.

City officials could see substantial savings from the car-sharing program.

For instance, the city of Philadelphia saved about $2 million a year by participating in a car-sharing program, PhillyCarShare, according to the program's Web site.

The city has reduced its fleet by 330 cars.

The program has attracted a wide range of people, from drivers in their 20s to a condo dweller in her 80s. Several suburban residents who work in Minneapolis and St. Paul also use the cars.

On average, the nonprofit bills users about $43 a month, and these users typically log about 32 miles, Morse said.

The full Council considered the HOURCAR contract at its Jan. 27 meeting, after this issue of The Southwest Journal went to press.