Radical Car Share

So I have a bunch of standard raps I give about the community when giving Saturday tours and talks at schools. This is the one about how we share vehicles.

The average group of 100 US Americans has 67 cars. We have 17. Not buying, insuring and maintaining 50 vehicles represents a significant chunk of change. But the question you should be asking is “Does this limited number of vehicles actually serve the transportation needs of this large group?” Fortunately, badly behaved communards test the system and I am badly behaved. But before we talk about me, let’s look under the hood of this beauty.

If you look at how most people in this country use vehicles, you can tell something about our strategy. The single largest use for cars in the US is commuting to work. We work and live in the same place, number one use down.

The second largest vehicle use is discretionary shopping. We have developed a tripper system which is so complete that almost all members use it instead of shopping themselves. It is the job of one member each day to drive into town with a bunch of pre-formatted slips which instruct them what to buy, where to buy it, what substitutes (if any) are available, where to charge it and where to deliver it. Unless you love the act of shopping, this system will transform your relationship with buying things. 6 days a week we send a tripper to the nearest local town, which is Louisa, then 3 times a week a different tripper goes to the nearest big city, which is Charlottesville and once a week we go to the state capital of Richmond.

So how does this system work when you personally need one of the 17 cars? Well, you sign up the night before and the vehicle assigner come down looks at all the requests and determines which cars, pick ups and vans best serve the needs of the different people requesting vehicles. It is, if you will excuse the pun, an autocratic assignment system. So this is the part that gets to me and my bad behavior.

After all the vehicles are assigned for the next day, people like me (who are poor planners) come after the assignments are complete and look for surplus capacity in the system: slack cars. And I must confess that perhaps 90% of the time I am able to find some vehicle to take me where I want to go. But sometimes I get a pick up truck when I want a sedan.

The key here is that through joint ownership and robust sharing agreements we have moved away from the brittle agreements which typify mainstream attempts to share things.