A small car sharing program in Montpelier is ending. The two-year pilot program, run by the non-profit CarShare Vermont in partnership with the state will end in April, after a 24-month trial.
It was hoped the program would be successful enough to continue.
Founding Executive Director of CarShare Vermont, Annie Bourdon, says when the program began, interest was strong.
“And then we actually started to see membership growth kind of halted and flatten out a bit,” she says.
The program is designed for people who need a car periodically to run errands or take day trips.
Once an individual becomes a member they pay a per hour and per mile fee to use a car. The fee includes fuel and insurance.
CarShare Vermont was established in the Burlington area in 2008 and now has approximately 1,000 members sharing 17 vehicles.
Bourdon says state money wasn’t used in the pilot although the Agency of Transportation helped establish the program. Montpelier was chosen because of requests from people in the community.
She says it’s a challenge to find a car sharing model that works in a rural area where people are spread out and limited public transportation makes it difficult for them to access the service.
“If you need a vehicle to access the shared vehicle, that defeats the purpose,” says Bourdon.
CarShare Vermont is one of a dwindling number of non-profit car sharing organizations in the United States.
Bourdon says as the service has become more popular, large rental car companies like Enterprise and Avis have purchased non-profits. The popular car sharing service Zipcar is now part of Avis.
“In smaller communities like Burlington, my hunch is the non-profit model is the most sustainable model,” she says.
Bourdon says about 80 percent of CarShare Vermont’s budget comes from revenue from use of the cars. She expects the organization will eventually sustain itself from that income.