By now you may have seen a few of the operational Buffalo CarShare autos buzzing around the city. Back in January I first wrote about the program (see post), but at that time the founders were still on the hunt for cars. Little did I know that by July 1st they would be on their way towards acquiring a small fleet. I caught up with Co-Founder Creighton Randall to find out where the team was along their journey to put Buffalo on the map as a carshare-friendly city.
I even got to test drive one of the models (parked behind Quaker Bonnet) in order to see exactly how the system operates. For the record… it’s all kinds of cool… finding the car parked behind the restaurant reminded me of the days when I used to play GTA. The carshare system is totally safe and smooth though, with many electronic anti-theft safeguards built right in. There’s even an emergency gas credit card and a Buffalo First coupon book so members can get their local discounts.
“We have four cars now on the street and we just bought three more. Those will go in the system mid-July. The first four were financed through Northtown Toyota. The three we’re getting next are financed through West-Herr Toyota. Six of the seven are Toyota Yaris. The seventh is a Corolla. We originally planned for eight, but we’re happy with seven. As a group I would say that we are really ahead of where we thought we would be considering the idea was put into motion a year ago. We have two fulltime staffers (Creighton and Mike Galligano) and two part-time staffers. We also have an intern from the UB School of Management.
“As far as members, we already have more than sixty. That’s about where we thought we would be, however the members are using the cars more than we thought they would. We’re seeing a lot of initial use from our members – we’re in good shape with sixty members and four cars. We’ll be able to handle 200 members with all seven cars. If we get more members we’ll continue to expand our fleet. The way the auto industry is right now, it’s not difficult to finance the vehicles. We’re in the mode of increasing our membership. We’re promoting our commercial memberships as well. We already have a couple of commercial clients including Quaker Bonnet and the Wellness Institute (affiliate). A carshare vehicle is an alternative to having a company car. Say you have eight employees that might need a company car… instead of spending the money on purchasing and maintaining the car, the company can offer a similar perk without the hassle.
“The four cars that we have right now are in Allentown. Soon, two will be added to the Elmwood Village and one will be parked in the Theater District. It’s funny… a lot of our members never thought this would happen in Buffalo. Nationwide there are 500,000 people who use this system (around thirty to forty cities). Most people who are new to the system are surprised as to how easy it is. For a lot of our members, the cars are only a block away. They have their own key fobs… they go online and it takes about thirty seconds to reserve a car. It shows you where the closest car is and members can reserve time slots – an average member will reserve a car for an hour and a half. The average American spends $8000 to maintain a vehicle each year. If you use the car share once a month you would pay approximately $500 a year. If you use it once a week you’re paying $1500 a year… that’s just an average.
“Many of our members have made a lifestyle change, and Buffalo CarShare rewards them for it. Also, a big part of doing this is for people who have never owned a car. You never have to pay for gas and you never pay for insurance… the most expensive part of owning a car can be the insurance alone. These cars are not used for daily commutes. The cars must be returned to the same spot. The theater district car will be great because downtown members will be able to ride the Metro Rail (for free) to get to it.
“Since we are a non-profit, we have seed funding from NYSERDA and NYSDOT… at this point business is going great. If we keep up the momentum we should have no problem being self-sufficient. Want to take a drive?”
Read Amanda Fox’s post on the detailed CarShare operations
Buffalo CarShare is located in the Allentown Association office – 14 Allen Street | Buffalo, NY