Car Sharing Mechanics

If industrial capitalism and climate change do not destroy everything, it will be because people (especially people in rich countries) change their behaviors.  i have long believed that part of the mission of the intentional communities movement is to communicate our experience and tools for resource sharing to a mainstream audience.

i have written about car sharing and the mainstream problem of failing to design good sharing practices because of the tendency to create brittle agreements.  Today i will focus on the communication systems which make it work at Twin Oaks, unfortunately with slightly blurry pictures.

It starts here with the Vehicle Log.

vehicle log

If you want a car, you need to make a reservation.  You make your request in the vehicle log, depicted above.  You specify who you are, when you are going (what time of day, there is a unique sheet for every day), where you are going (LT is Louisa Town > 7 miles, LL is Louisa Local < 7 miles, C is Charlottesville, R is Richmond, A is Acorn, etc) and what type of vehicle you want (sedan, station wagon, mini-van, cargo van, pick up truck, 15 person passenger van) and what area is going to pay for the vehicle.

You sign up at least before 6 PM the night before you need the vehicle, then the vehicle assigner comes in and decodes this puzzle which has been created for them. When i have been well behaved and signed out a vehicle in advance, i have perhaps half a dozen times in the 15 years that i have been here not been able to get a vehicle.  Typically, this is because i want a car for a personal trip and everything is signed out for commune business of some  type.

Before you freak out about how it would be completely unacceptable for you to ever not have your car exactly when you wanted it on a moments notice, consider this.  In the last 15 years have you ever tried to start your car and it did not go?  This does not happen to me.  The mechanics in the community keep the cars running nearly flawlessly.  And while perhaps every other year i have to scramble around for a car pool or borrow someones car, i get at least half a days notice on this.

magnet board for cars

When the vehicle assigner gives you a car, they write what you have been assigned in the vehicle log and they place magnets on the above depicted board (which is usually more crowded than this picture).  Part of the reason for this board is so that people who are not well behaved (as i often am not) can show up at the last minute and figure out easily which vehicles are available for last minute personal assigning.  If there is a conflict between the vehicle log and the magnet board, the vehicle log supersedes.

magnet board detail

The magnet board also helps by telling people about the vehicles which they have been assigned.  There is a little picture of the profile of the vehicle (if you had 17 cars you might nee to be reminded of which looked like what).  The number of seats is indicated.  Manual versus automatic transmission. The full name of the car and the letters which appear on the vanity license plates.

key box for cars

Our default in community is that we trust people.  For 35 years we kept the keys in the cars (this is not that unusual, most of our neighbors here in rural Virginia do the same thing).  Then someone stole one of our cars and we bumped up our security a notch.  We took the keys out of the cars and put them in the lock box depicted above, which is open most of the time and combination locked when there is no one in the office.

So once you have figured out which car you have, you grab the keys and go.