When Becky Brown learned that her ancient Volkswagen Van was slowly dying, she made the environmentally-friendly decision that she would not purchase a new car to replace it.




This was the decision that impelled her to try and start up a car share program in Ashland.




Car sharing is a growing phenomenon that allows drivers to become members of a group that share a vehicle. This type of program is typically ideal for people who don't need to do a lot of driving, but still would like to use a car once and a while. So far Brown is still in the developmental stages of creating the Ashland Car Share, but she is confident that there are many others in the area looking for the same kind of program.




"It takes a while to get the word out there, but I'm looking forward to getting people together," said Brown. "This is the first week that people have begun to take notice."




In the last number of years, the concept of "car sharing" has taken off in cities all across the country. The very first car share program was created in Portland.




On average, car sharing is cheaper for people who drive fewer than 15,000 miles a year. To become a member of a car share, there is usually a background check, a credit check and of course a driving records check. Once a member of a car share, people initially pay a monthly membership fee &

usually $15 dollars or so. The shared vehicle normally stays in a central location of town. Drivers pick up the car at its designated location, and then return it to the same place when they are finished.




When a member drives the shared vehicle, they pay either hourly or per mile fees. There are usually time limits to how long a car can be used, as well as discounts during non-peak hours such as 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. These fees pay for gas, mileage and maintenance of the vehicle or vehicles.




If a member happens to get in an accident while driving the shared vehicle, the insurance representing the organization will cover the damages.




"If the driver is at fault, then they will have to meet the deductible," said Brown. "But the corporation absorbs the rest of the fees."




Some car share programs are small single-car groups, while others still have hundreds of members and concurrent vehicles.




In Eugene, there is a very small car share program consisting of nine members sharing one vehicle.




In Boulder, Colo., a group of housemates began a small scale car share after they realized that they each had a vehicle when they could have been sharing just one car. Gradually, their home-grown program became an organization with nine cars and almost 60 members.




In larger cities such as San Francisco and New York City, car shares are run by large nonprofit corporations whose members share more than a hundred vehicles.




Brown will have a car share booth set up at the Car Free Day Festivities on Oak Street today. To find out more about the Ashland Car Share, contact Becky Brown at 890-1936, or by email at AshlandCarShare@gmail.com.