Think of it as a community car. You rent the vehicle by the hour, picking it up and returning it at designated spots. No car loans. No costly repair bills. And participants are helping the environment.
It’s called Buffalo CarShare, a nonprofit group that is launching an ambitious plan to grow the program. Executive Director Creighton Randall talked with The Buffalo News’ Brian Meyer about some new initiatives, including the pending arrival of electric cars. Here is a summary of some of the issues covered in an interview that is part of the weekly “In Focus” series. Watch the full six-minute interview above.
Meyer: About two-thirds of your members do not own cars. Tell us more about your target audience. What does your typical member look like?
Randall: We have a pretty broad audience of members. You might see your typical car-sharing member that is looking to reduce their family’s fleet from two vehicles to one. But you also have members that have never owned a car before, or members that maybe are very comfortable with the public transit system ... but they need a car every once in a while. So our membership is pretty broad in terms of race, income, age ... We do see a lot of elderly members use the service, and increasingly, members that have low to moderate incomes.
Meyer: Mobility is such an important thing. This is not New York City, where parking is just unbearable in some areas. It’s not even a San Francisco or Chicago. Can we realistically hope to see something like Buffalo CarShare grow by leaps and bounds in Buffalo?
Randall: You can’t get very easily to the grocery store or to a doctor’s appointment ... a lot of doctors’ offices are out in the suburbs. Transit serves some trips very well, but others, not so well. That’s part of what makes this service work well. For your day-to-day needs, walking, biking, transit works great. But when you need a car occasionally, that’s what Buffalo CarShare is for.
Meyer: You’re in several neighborhoods already. You’re hoping to expand into others. Tell us about the geography.
Randall: We got started about four years ago. We’ve been growing slowly in Allentown, Elmwood Village, the West Side, the University Heights neighborhood. We want to expand into new neighborhoods, and that’s part of what this growth campaign is about. We’re hoping to expand east, west, north, south. Some neighborhoods in particular over the next few months that we’re looking at: the Fruit Belt, the Lower West Side, parts of North Buffalo. We also do hope in the coming years to expand downtown as well. Areas like Genesee Gateway we think are really primed for CarShare.
Meyer: You have 600 members now. What’s your goal?
Randall: We hope to get to over 1,000 members, and a 30-vehicle fleet by the end of the 2015.
Meyer: You have a rather exciting electrical component coming on line.
Randall: We’ll be adding four vehicles to our fleet over the summer. That’s part of this growth. And they’ll all be electric vehicles. They’re actually funded through a grant from NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority) and the New York State DOT (Department of Transportation). The first two are coming on line in the coming weeks. Those will be Ford Focus electrics.
Meyer: Where are they going to be charged?
Randall: They’ll be charged here on the Medical Campus...The city doesn’t have a lot of electric vehicle [charging stations]. They do here on the medical campus.