Emory Report
June 12, 2006
Volume 58, Number 32


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June 12 , 2006
Carshare program ready to flex

BY Michael Terrazas

Emory faculty and staff will receive new options for making their commuting lives easier this week as the University gets ready to launch two programs tabbed to play major roles in the effort to remove single-occupancy vehicles from the Clifton Corridor.

Technically, the first of the two efforts will add cars to campus: six of them, to be exact, in the form of Honda Civics that will create the nucleus of Emory’s Flexcar fleet, operated through an arrangement with the national program of the same name. The six Civics, one of which has a hybrid engine, will serve as community vehicles, available for rent at a reasonable fee to all Emory employees—and free (for up to four hours a week) to registered participants in the University’s transportation and parking program.

What transportation officials hope is that the availability of the six Flexcars will remove one more of employees’ reasons for not leaving their own cars at home (or, at least, some distance from campus) and promote taking advantage of Emory’s programs such as carpools and vanpools, MARTA subsidies, neighborhood shuttles and the soon-to-open park and ride lots (more on that later).

“One of the chief concerns people have is they often say, ‘I can’t [forego my car] because I need my car to run an errand, or what if I have a doctor’s appointment or a meeting downtown?’” said Laura Ray, associate vice president for transportation and parking. “This is a way for them to have the car they need. We want to make it convenient for people to get out of their single-occupant vehicles.”

Flexcar is a 7-year-old company from Seattle that runs carshare programs similar to Emory’s at a growing number of institutions and communities around the country; the University’s will be the first Flexcar program in Atlanta, but it will be followed this summer by a second in Midtown.

How it works is this: Employees go directly to the Flexcar Web site
(www.flexcar.com) and register to become a member (in this first year, Emory will pay the annual membership fee, about $40). To be eligible, employees must have a valid driver’s license and an acceptable driving record (details on Web site); they must be 21–75 years old and have a current debit or credit card. In a week to 10 days, they will receive a membership packet with the company’s terms and conditions; the employee signs the document and returns it, and then receives a “smart card” for using the vehicles.

Any employee registered as a Flexcar member may use the vehicles at a rate of $9 per hour, which includes gasoline, maintenance and insurance. Those employees registered with the parking and transportation program (meaning they do not have a single-occupancy vehicle hangtag) may use Flexcars free for up to four hours per week and at $9 for each additional hour. Billing is made directly to members’ credit or debit cards.

The University actually does relatively little aside from provide parking spaces for the Flexcars (the initial fleet of six will be stored in six separate locations across campus: the Materiel Center, the Kilgo Street and Dowman intersection, and the Michael Street, Peavine, Lowergate and Clairmont parking decks) and subsidize the program. Members handle reservations and scheduling themselves through the Flexcar Web site and even gas up the vehicles; Flexcar will reimburse users for the cost of gasoline and reward them with free rental credits for stopping by the gas station before returning the cars.

“It’s kind of like a condo or timeshare concept,” Ray said. “All members are part ‘owners’ of the program; if there’s a problem with a car, you report it and it’s fixed, or you pay and you’re reimbursed.”

This fall, Emory will launch a second phase of the Flexcar program, this time aimed at students by making 18- to 21-year-olds eligible for membership. In fact, Ray said the University will be one of five schools involved in a pilot program for college students. “It’s a little more complex because of the insurance issues,” she said, “but we’re confident we’ll be able to offer this to our students in the fall.”

Also this week, Emory will officially “open” its first park and ride lot at North DeKalb Mall, where employees can park free of charge and ride shuttles (which will pick up and drop off every 20 minutes during peak times, Ray said) to and from campus. Emory will provide security at the remote facilities, and though shuttle service will stop each night at about 7 p.m., employees who need to stay late on campus are guaranteed a ride back to their cars.

“It’s about changing habits, and it’s in line with the whole question of sustainability for the University,” Ray said. “It’s going to be a good thing—it’s going to be a really good thing.”

For more information about all of Emory’s transit options, visit www.cctma.com.