Archive for the ‘cars’ Category

German suburb finds car-free life quite carefree

May 13, 2009

Have you ever heard of Vauban, a small suburb in Germany? I hadn’t until recently, but after reading an article in yesterday’s New York Times“In German Suburb, Life Goes On Without Cars”—I’m ready to pack my bags and hop on the next plane there.

Vauban, completed in 2006, sits on the outskirts of Freiburg, near the French and Swiss borders. Street parking, driveways and home garages are generally forbidden, and Vauban’s streets are completely car-free, except for the main thoroughfare and a few streets on the outskirts of the suburb.

You may be asking yourself, How is this working out for the 5,500 residents of Vauban? Quite well, it seems. From the article:

The town is long and relatively narrow, so that the tram into Freiburg is an easy walk from every home. Stores, restaurants, banks and schools are more interspersed among homes than they are in a typical suburb. Most residents…have carts that they haul behind bicycles for shopping trips or children’s play dates. For trips to stores like IKEA or the ski slopes, families buy cars together or use communal cars rented out by Vauban’s car-sharing club.

Moreover, parents in Vauban rave about the safety that goes along with having no cars on the streets. Children can run free without their parents fearing for their safety as they would if their kids were playing on a busy street corner. Check out this interesting slideshow of Vauban.

Vauban is part of a growing suburban trend many are referring to as “smart planning.” In the U.S., the EPA is beginning to promote “car reduced” communities and experts expect public transport serving suburbs to play a much larger role in a new six-year federal transportation bill to be approved this year. Currently, most zoning laws in the U.S. still require two parking spaces per residential unit. Hopefully, Vauban’s success will lead to many more car-reduced cities and suburbs.

Sharing vs. Owning: The effects of car sharing

May 4, 2009

Ian Sacs, of Planetizen, recently reported on the effects of car sharing versus car ownership, and what do you know: the outcomes all seem to have positive ramifications! According to Sacs, “Surveys of members, data from existing programs, and empirical evidence from several developments have shown that when a car share vehicle is available in a convenient location, and usually combined with transit access, a significant number of people make a decision that it is no longer necessary to own a car.” He goes on to conclude that the ratio of car sharing vehicles to households that voluntarily give up a personal car is roughly six to 23. However, Sacs is quick to note that as car sharing becomes more widespread, this ratio could double.

Moreover, adding car sharing vehicles to a development can significantly reduce demand for parking and, in turn, reduce construction costs. Although, Sacs also points out that simply “sprinkling car share vehicles nearby or even on-site is typically not enough to realize an appreciable reduction in private vehicle ownership. Rather, the developer must market car sharing as a feature” and include incentives to join—such as reduced membership costs, driving credits and so forth.

One of the less studied, yet equally important, effects of car sharing versus car ownership is the effect it has on the total number of trips a person takes each year. If you own your own car, the more you drive it, the more value you get out of it. Whereas when sharing a car, and paying per use, you are more likely to consider the true cost of taking a car versus public transportation, biking or walking.

While Sacs does not ignore the fact that car sharing is currently only found in, and seems to be most applicable in, urban areas, he does appear hopeful for expansion of the industry into suburban areas as well. To illustrate this point, he highlights the number of suburban families that own a second or third car that they rarely use and insists that adding a car sharing vehicle in these suburban areas may “significantly reduce the total number of vehicles needed in that community.”

Has the availability of car sharing in Chicago convinced you to ditch your wheels? To drive less? Let us know your car sharing experience!

Emissions Accomplished?

March 11, 2009

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently considering reversing a Bush administration decision which prevented California (along with 13 other states) from enacting stricter air-pollution standards for motor vehicles. This is great news, not only because of the positive environmental effects the stricter rules would bring about, but simply because it might actually happen!

California has been leading the fight to enact these stricter CO2 regulations for years now and has seen little help from the federal government. However, that was under the Bush administration. Things seem to be changing since Obama took office.

On January 21, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger sent a letter to President Obama requesting that he review the EPA’s denial of California’s waiver request, stating, “California and a growing number of farsighted states have sought to enforce a common-sense policy to reduce global-warming pollution from passenger vehicles, which are the source of 20 percent of our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. Regulation will not only reduce these emissions, but will also save drivers money and reduce our nation’s dependence on foriegn oil… Your administration has a unique opportunity to both support the pioneering leadership of these states and move America toward global leadership on addressing climate change.”

A mere five days after Governor Schwarzenegger sent this letter, President Obama directed federal regulators to review California’s and 13 other states’ request to set automobile emissions and fuel efficency standards. According to the Clean Air Act Section 209 – State Standards, the EPA must grant the waiver unless it finds that California:

-was arbitrary & capricious in its finding that its standards are, in the aggregate, at least as protective of public health and welfare as applicable federal standards;

-does not need such standards to meet compelling and extraordinary conditions; or

-has proposed standards not consistent with Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act

The 13 other states joining California in this fight are: Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

Help make this happen – sign the petition urging the EPA to grant the waiver!

3 New I-GO Car Locations

January 30, 2009

I’m happy to announce that we’re adding 3 new I-GO locations early next week!

411 E. Ontario (Blue Honda Civic)

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300 N Canal (Gray Toyota Matrix)

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3941 N Ashland (Blue Honda Element)

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Car sharing in Japan grows as vehicle sales continue to fall

January 19, 2009

According to a recent article in Japan Today, car sharing is catching on in Japan as well as here in the U.S.. The article claims that, “car sharing is shifting into a higher gear in Japan as people try to save on car maintenance costs and be more environmentally friendly at the same time,”.

While car sharing is growing, car sales are down. Vehicle sales in Japan hit a 28-year low in 2008, according to the figures released by the Japan Automobile Dealers Association (JADA). Annual sales are expected to fall again in 2009. “We never imagined sales would fall this badly,” said JADA Director, Takeshi Fushimi. “This is a bleak situation.”

What is a bleak situation for auto dealers is great news for Japanese car sharing organizations. According to a survey done by the Eco-Mo Foundation, there were 19 car sharing organizations in Japan, with a total of 522 cars being shared by 3,875 members, as of August 2008. The numbers of cars and car stations more than doubled and the number of registered car sharing members increased by half since the same survey was done in January of 2007. Below is a photo of a car sharing site at a condominium in Japan.

One BILLION cars

January 16, 2009

That’s the world population of cars now, and it could double in the next 20 years. This is according to Daniel Sperling, author of the book Two Billion Cars: Driving Toward Sustainability. Sperling was interviewed yesterday on one of my favorite radio shows, Fresh Air.

It’s a really interesting conversation about the history of technology advancements and market forces that have influenced the makeup of the car population now, and how we might slow its growth and make electric, hybrid, and hydrogren vehicles take up a larger share in the future.

Car sharing gets a lot of love, of course, but some of his other answers are surprising. He points out the shortcoming of mass transit and promotes bike sharing, paratransit, and other ways to change what he terms “the transportation monoculture.”

You should take a listen, even if you’re not a policy wonk – these Big Picture questions address important facets of all our lives.

(AP photo via

2010 Toyota Prius unveiled in Detroit

January 13, 2009

The auto blog Jalopnik has a ton of coverage from The Detroit Auto Show, where there have been a lot of hybrid cars introduced, including the 2010 Toyota Prius. At 50 MPG, the new Prius will be the most fuel-efficient vehicle available in the country. You can bet I-GO will be looking at the new Prius and other hybrids like the Honda Insight and Ford Fusion Hybrid to add to the already green fleet.

For photos (like this one) and news about new hybrid tech at the big auto show, check out Jalopnik’s full coverage.

Chicago expands red light ticketing program

January 6, 2009

As some of you may already be painfully aware, traffic surveillance cameras have been popping up around Chicago at intersections in recent years. Getting caught running a red light on one of these cameras will cost you a hefty $100 ticket in the mail. Already, the City has installed 248 cameras at 123 accident-prone intersections and it looks like there are many more to come.

The 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has given the City of Chicago the go-ahead to continue installing red light camera at intersections throughout Chicago. Rejecting the so-called “innocent owner’s defense”, the ruling states:

“Is it rational to fine the owner, rather than the driver? Certainly so. A camera can show reliably which cars and trucks go through red lights, but is less likely to show who was driving. That would make it easy for owners to point the finger at friends or children- and essentially impossible for the city to prove otherwise”

The City will now move ahead with a major expansion program, installing cameras at more than 330 intersections by 2012. Thus far, these cameras have raised $94.5 million in revenue for the city. However, City Hall insists that it’s more about safety than money, claiming a 59 percent drop in red-light running since installing the cameras in 2003. What do you think? Is this a fare form of traffic enforcement, or is Big Brother going too far?

Will Obama help grow an electric car bumper crop in Hawaii?

December 5, 2008

Will Barack Obama’s childhood island state become the first in the nation to fully support a transition to electric vehicles? The President-Elect has made it clear he plans to make sustainability and green-collar jobs top priorities during his administration. Now, Hawaii is attempting to lead the country in adopting use of all-electric vehicles. It’s a refreshing change of pace from the greed and lack of vision we’ve been witnessing on Capitol Hill as the Big Three automakers beg for a bail-out.

This past Tuesday, Hawaii announced plans to become the first state in the U.S. to create a statewide electric recharging network for electric cars. The Hawaiian state government has joined forces with Better Place, an ambitious start-up that I posted about earlier this year, in an effort to make all-electric vehicles a reality by building car charging and battery swapping stations around the islands and purchasing renewable energy from Hawaiian Electric Co., the state’s largest utility.

They plan to have the recharging stations up and running by 2011, and to have built 50,000 to 100,000 charging spots across the state by early 2012. Shai Agassi, Better Place’s founder and CEO, claims the electric cars will cost the same as gas powered cars — at first. However, over time, electric cars will be less expensive to make because they use far less parts than cars with internal combustion engines.

In late November, San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area cities also announced plans to join forces with Better Place to create an electric recharging network by 2012. However, Better Place chose Hawaii as the first statewide rollout for several reasons: the size of the state, the contained environment and consistent climate the island offers, and the abundance of renewable energy resources, such as wind, solar, geothermal and wave power.

Here are two short clips: one of Agassi and Hawaiian Governor Linda Lingle driving one of the Better Place electric vehicles (hopefully, we’ll be seeing more of these cars in the near future), and one of Agassi answering a reporter’s questions about Better Place’s agenda for the Bay Area.

Snow days were more fun Back In The Day…

December 1, 2008

It’s the first big snow of the year, and as I hear Chicago school closings listed, I am again bummed as heck that I won’t ever experience the joy of a snow day. Heart pumping as the list is read, the ecstasy as your school is called, the video games and PJs all day while you skip your homework again…

But now we grown ups have to soldier on in this weather, getting wet and cold waiting for the El, scrubbing salt stains from our shoes, wiping out on the ice, and also braving dangerous roads. For folks not used to driving in this mess, be sure to follow some of these important tips as you do your grown-up business in your favorite I-Go car:

  • Turn on your head lights so other cars can see you.
  • Stay a bit further behind the cars in front of you – when there is snow and ice, you’ll need about three times the amount of space to break.
  • If you get stuck, clear snow from the tires and ease your way out. Spinning your wheels will just get you more stuck.

More tips on Winter driving are at Stay warm and safe.

(Image from WBBM CBS 2 Chicago)