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Metro Man: Getting behind Flexcar


By Jerry Attkisson

 Liz Wattenberg just celebrated her birthday and made a wish you can help make come true and realize something good for yourself in the process. Liz is the general manager of Flexcar Atlanta, which officially launched on Sept. 22. Flexcar is an alternative to owning or leasing a vehicle or renting one by the day—it’s car-sharing by the hour.

The idea is, when you need a car for an hour or two, you can rent one from Flexcar when you’re in Midtown or Downtown. They’re also available at Emory, Georgia Tech, and Georgia State.

Take my friend Fred Cobbs, manager of Starbucks at Peachtree and 17th Streets. Fred lives in a condo a block up the street and usually rides his bike or takes MARTA when he has to make a trip. Now he can walk a block to the Arts Center Station or the Promenade Building and pick up a Flexcar. Novare, the developer of many high-rise residences in Midtown, has an arrangement in which their owners have a Flexcar available at their building’s door.

The market for Liz’s cars is all those people who now live along the Peachtree spine in Downtown and Midtown; those taking a commute alternative such as transit, biking, walking, or carpooling, and those who drive into the area because they need or think they will need their cars during the day.

Flexcar is also designed for companies and organizations that would like a fleet of vehicles at their fingertips without the hassle of managing and maintaining a vehicle.

Flexcar started in Seattle in 2000 and now is in eight metropolitan areas. The majority owner is Steve Case, founder of AOL. Ironically, Flexcar came to Atlanta because of Michael Robison, founder of Lanier Parking Systems. You would think a guy who makes his living renting parking spaces wouldn’t favor an alternative that reduced demand for his services. But Robison realizes the need for reduced congestion to help attract and grow business in Atlanta.

Most people only use their vehicles about two hours a day—more if you commute into the city. Flexcar is not just about reducing congestion, emissions reduction and the need for parking. It is also about saving you time and money. On Flexcar’s Web site you can compare the cost of car ownership to using Flexcar. The savings are startling.

Most importantly, Flexcar is about an immediate solution to the problems presented by vehicles in Atlanta. On the one hand, we are proud of our growth in homes and businesses in the center city. But we already have a transportation problem that is getting worse with the new development. Unlike road and transit improvements, Flexcar can have an impact now.

So far there are 41 vehicles available in Atlanta – hybrids and fuel efficient MINI Coopers, Subaru Foresters, pickup trucks and minivans, as well as sedans. The standard hourly rate is $9-$12, depending on the car and its location. That includes gas, primary insurance, unlimited mileage and maintenance.

Typically there is a one-time application fee of $35, then a $40 annual fee. However, there are a number of special offers found online that will give free credit or even free membership and usage depending on where you live or work, and even how you get to work.

For example, at Emory and Georgia Tech, Flexcar membership and some usage is free for faculty and staff who do not have a parking permit. There are also programs for undergrads, 18 to 20 years old. Visit www.flexcar.com for more info or to apply online today. After submitting an application, which involves a Department of Motor Vehicles check, you receive a Flexcard in the mail that is all you need to unlock the car, provided you have a current reservation.

There is also a referral fee of $40 in credit when one of your friends or co-workers joins and enters your name or member number on their application. You can send an e-mail by way of the Flexcar Web site to introduce others to car-sharing and receive the credit when they sign up.

To wish Liz a happy birthday and show her you read about Flexcar here, enter #66135 when you sign up. For every shared car, studies show approximately 15 privately owned vehicles are taken of the roads. Let’s help Liz reach her goal while easing traffic and congestion in the process!

jerryattkisson@mindspring.com