If you’re starting to suspect that life would be a lot easier, less expensive and more environmentally friendly if you didn’t own a car, you’re not alone. In the past several years, more and more people, especially those living in larger cities, are opting for public transportation and car sharing – a great choice for both the pocketbook and the environment.
According to market research firm projections, membership in car sharing programs is expected to grow to between 12 million and 26 million members by 2020 (in 2013, there were about 2.3 million car-sharers). Zipcar and other car sharing services, where cars are either borrowed from a dealership on an hourly or daily basis, as needed, or shared between individuals, are growing in popularity all over the Western world.
A number of surveys, including those by the US Public Interest Research Groups (PIRG), state that the shift towards car sharing and alternate modes of transportation is being led by millennials, individuals born after 1981. Many people of this age group are opting to live in the city, where personally owning a car is not as necessary as in rural areas.
One benefit of car sharing is a huge savings (sometimes several hundred dollars per month) in expenses, on insurance, gas and auto maintenance fees. Emily LeClair, a Chicago resident and peer-to-peer car sharing user, says, “I think people are realizing that their car is something they can make money off of. People are realizing I don’t need to have one 365 days a year. I can just get one when I need one.”
Car sharing is also significantly beneficial to the environment. Less cars on the road means less gas emissions to wreak havoc on our already-endangered ozone layer. Indirectly, if less tax dollars are needed to expand roadways and build large parking structures, the money saved can go toward improving public transportation and green spaces, for those who prefer to walk and/or enjoy biking.
If less people are buying cars, it may mean trouble for auto manufacturers. However, according to Susan Shaheen, a transportation researcher at UC Berkeley, these companies have another option to get with the growing trend instead of railing against it. Shaheen says, “many automakers are now looking at mobility services as a new market opportunity in which they touch the daily lives of their customers by providing a variety of vehicles in different settings to meet their mobility needs.”
If you’re debating whether or not to buy a new vehicle – or keep your existing one – take a good look at the car sharing and public transportation options in your neighborhood. You may find you can save yourself a lot of headaches without a personal car – not to mention the perks for planet Earth.
-The Alternative Daily