U Car Share adds new rides in Portland, looks to expand into neighborhoods

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PORTLAND — The city’s 2-year-old car-sharing program may add vehicles on the west and east ends of the peninsula, and has replaced the four vehicles already available downtown.

John Peverada, the city’s parking manager, said that U Car Share estimates the four cars in Portland saved about 11.3 tons of carbon dioxide in 2010 through car sharing. That number is based on the estimated amount of “errand bundling” users do. Peverada said the more fuel-efficient vehicles now available and a more comprehensive look at membership should increase the CO2 savings.

U Car Share is a program of U-Haul, which partnered with the city in January 2009. Two vehicles are now available on Elm Street next to the Portland Public Library, one is parked on Commercial Street east of the Casco Bay ferry terminal, and the other is at 645 Congress St.

U Car recently replaced four PT Cruisers with two Ford Focuses, a Honda Insight Hybrid and a Ford F-150 pickup truck. Peverada said new cars are more fuel-efficient and the truck offers people the means to haul a large load.

In an effort to increase membership, U Car is also planning to add more locations. Munjoy Hill is being considered because of its high residential density, and Peverada said the Maine Medical Center area in the West End is also a candidate.

U Car membership costs $25. Users go online at ucarshare.com to reserve vehicles and get access codes. There is also an hourly rate and a mileage charge. For example, renting the Honda Insight for four hours would cost $19.80 ($4.95 per hour), plus 59 cents per mile, capped at $38.

A six-month summary of usage showed the Congress Street vehicle to be the most popular rental, with an average of about 50 reservations each month from August through December 2010. There were 122 reservations for all three locations in August 2010, and 85 in January of this year. Intervening months averaged in the low 100s. Peverada said a seasonal decline is expected in winter.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net