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"Car Share" Nonprofit Revs Up

Local Matters


Published February 13, 2008 at 11:03 a.m.


BURLINGTON - Annie Bourdon is not a used-car salesperson, but she'll talk fixed automotive costs and vehicle depreciation till she's blue in the face. Why? The University of Vermont grad student is the driving force behind Green Mountain CarShare (GMCS), the state's first "neighborhood-based" car "service." With a little luck - and $200,000 in donations - GMCS will hit the streets of Greater Burlington in June.

Marketed as a new "relationship" to cars, GMCS would allow drivers to cruise in pseudo-rental cars on a pay-as-you-go basis. The system is designed as an "affordable" and "environmentally responsible" driving alternative for non-commuting individuals and families "on the fence" of vehicle ownership - think vegetarian potluck meets Hertz. Bourdon, a former deputy director of a pioneer car-share program in the San Francisco Bay area, says GMCS' initial fleet will consist of rentable, fuel-efficient, gasoline-powered cars, later expanding to include hybrids and pickup trucks. "If a lot of people are looking for minivans, we'll look into it," she offers. "But you won't see us adding a Hummer or an SUV."

According to Bourdon's figures, GMCS members who drive 100 miles per month through her program would pay $90 monthly for the car-share service. By contrast, the typical cost of keeping a car in your driveway over that same period is $471 - a figure that doesn't include fuel expenses or environmental externalities.

True to its neighborhood-based mantra, CarShare promises societal benefits: environmental quality, increased use of public transportation and socioeconomic equity, to name a few. Bourdon reports that the City of Burlington, the University of Vermont and such local nonprofits as Good News Garage and Local Motion support her efforts. CarShare's first open meeting convenes at Burlington's Union Station on Wednesday, February 13, at 5:30 p.m.

But can car sharing - typically an urban phenom - take off in a rural state? "From what I can tell from my time in Burlington, I think we're ready," declares Bourdon, a Woodstock native. "When I hear about the support of local agriculture, the local economy and the understanding of economic disparity . . . I do think there's an energy and a will to take a risk and give something a try that's out of the norm."