Thursday, January 18, 2007

I'm signing up today

The Bride and I haven't signed up for Flexcar or Zipcar, partially because with one car, we really just haven't had to yet. There is always the trouble that she can't drive our car, since it's a five-speed, but I can take her where she needs to go generally. But after seeing that Flexcar is waiving the membership fee in DC until the end of the month, I think we'll go ahead and do it.

I think there's a larger lesson to be learned from this quote in the WBJ about why car-sharing works as well as it does in the city:

As for people returning cars late, messy or with gas tanks on "E", Schneider says it's not an issue. "This is not car rental," he says. "It's a shared neighborhood asset." Flexcar hopes to promote good behavior by positive reinforcement, such as crediting members' accounts when they gas up at the end of their trips.
I think there's a key to civics in there somewhere — when you give everyone a little bit of ownership, and they begin to sense that a commodity is an asset that belongs to them, they take care of it. Sort of like the difference between cleanliness of blocks where the houses are full of renters, and another one full of owners.

If we end up buying an apartment in the next year or so, we're definitely considering getting rid of the truck and putting the money towards a house and doing zipcar or flexcar fulltime, providing we live near where one is parked. Imagine that, no more car! We've been thinking about it, and the success of car-sharing in DC is the only way we'd be able to do it.

With the Examiner mention of Flexcar, I also saw this letter from a Metro user who is complaining about not being able to track usage on your SmartTrip card. Right now, you either have to go to headquarters at Judiciary Square or to Metro Center to get a printout of your usage.
"I liked the paper fare cards because you can see after each trip the amount remaining and can do quick math to understand what amount was deducted. With this SmarTrip card I have no record of transactions. Many times I have gone through the faregate and gotten messages such as “see attendant” or other various messages. On one occasion when I went to the attendant, he took the card and swiped it on a computer. I was told to re-enter and then leave again. It would not let me leave again! I asked to see for myself what records are on the card and was told only someone in some office in Virginia has that information. I can’t help but be suspicious that I have been erroneously charged. Since these cards are registered at WMATA why can’t someone go to WMATA’s website and look up the transactions online or even get a paper print out at any station. I believe, it would improve customer service to have this information available.
Metro still has a long way to go to streamline a few features with SmartTrip, especially if they want everyone to use it — or begin charging people who use paper fare cards more.

Yeah, so that it's right now. Boring stuff, I know.