PORTLAND — The city’s first car-share service has seen steady use during its first couple of months, and officials expect usage to grow as warm weather sets in.
U Car Share, a program of U-Haul, placed four shared cars in the city Jan. 12. The vehicles, Chrysler PT Cruisers, have dedicated parking spots on Elm Street next to the Portland Public Library and on Commercial Street close to the Casco Bay Lines ferry terminal.
Michael Coleman, the project manager for U Car, which also provides service in Portland, Ore., Berkeley, Calif. and Madison, Wis., said 160 people have signed up to be members of the service in Maine. He said he expects membership to continue to grow steadily.
Most Portland users have reserved the cars for short periods, Coleman said.
“The trips tend to be about three hours,” he said. “We’re seeing short-term uses, like grocery shopping and going out to restaurants.”
Coleman predicted that as the weather gets warmer, people will begin to use the service more frequently to get to outdoor adventures and other summer activities.
John Peverada, the city’s parking manager, said there were 50 reservations for cars through February and that most of those reservations were for just a couple of hours, as Coleman said. He said there were a few 24-hour reservations.
“Things seem to be going well,” said Peverada, who helped lead the effort to get U Car to come to Portland. While the city does not pay for the service, Portland does provide the four designated on-street parking spots for the cars.
City Councilor John Anton was one of the early users of the car-sharing service. The councilor said he drove one of the vehicles to Augusta for non-city business.
“I took it for work,” Anton said. “It was more cost effective than renting or putting mileage on my own car.”
Users can register for membership at ucarshare.com. There is a $50 sign-up fee and a $10 monthly fee for members who use vehicles more than 10 hours a month. It costs $9.50 per hour to use a car, or $66 a day. Reservations can be made on the Web site. Members receive a SmartCard that allows access to the cars. Distance is tracked through a GPS device in the vehicle.
Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or firstname.lastname@example.org.