Woah. Wait a second. A car share service let me take out a $35-40,000 sports car? You betcha. Not only that, I was one of the first people to drive the car, since when I got in it the odometer had less than 180 miles on it. Pretty sick. How much did it cost me? About $60 for the day. That included the car for 8 hours, gas for 100 miles worth of driving, and of course, zero deductible insurance.
Sound too good to be true? It’s not. This is the power of shared resources. By splitting up a set of resources among a larger set of users, the cost-per-user comes down…a lot. And since PhillyCar is not-for-profit, all of the money they make beyond paying the payments on the cars goes right back into buying more, nicer cars for the fleet. And since they’ve recently added some 5-speed manual Miatas, these new A4s, and a bunch of others, they must be doing it right.
The success of this model can also be attributed to the community that they’ve generated around their product and their service. By holding regular “bring a friend” meetups and providing referral incentives, they’ve increased their membership by numbers that I can only imagine. By creating a feeling of appreciation for the other car-share members, the drivers feel a real human connection with other car-share drivers on the road. Allow me to illustrate:
Last week I went to Ikea and the laundromat to buy some large furniture and clean my clothes (respectively). So, we took out one of the Tacoma Pickups to ease transport of the Ikea schwag. At the laundromat, as I was leaving, a girl pulled up in a car-share Mini Cooper convertible. Both cars had car-share logos on the side and on the bumper plates, so when we looked at each other, we both smiled, nodded, and knew that we were part of something really cool.
Never mind ecologically sound, which car-sharing is. Never mind financially smart, which car-sharing is. But the way Philly Car Share has structured themselves, it’s so much more.
I’m so in love with the coworking model because it follows so many of the same examples set by Philly Car Share (and other car sharing services, though I can’t speak for what I don’t use. But Chris and Tara do love their zipcar). By sharing resources that we individually couldn’t afford (think professional conference room amenities instead of turbo sports cars), we’re enabling each other to do our jobs better, with lower overhead, and higher levels of appreciation for each other’s participation. It’s win-win-win.
It’s my hope that as we work to build up Independents Hall and open the space that we’re gunning for (well, that I’m gunning for, at least), I can get Philly Car Share folks to share some of their experiences with building the community that, in my humble opinion, is slowly changing the way people get around (and out of) the city of Philadelphia. Ideally, I’d love to work some kind of partnership where we have a mutual exchange of community members. Our markets overlap in a huge way. If we were able to create a way to cross promote our services, that would be an incredible, and most importantly, sustainable, relationship. And thats the stuff that dreams are made of.
If you live in Philly and aren’t a member of Philly Car Share, do it today. If you’re a student, they waive the monthly retainer, which rocks. Drop my name (Alex Hillman) on the referral form if you want, I won’t complain and it will help them know where you found out about them from. Even if you have a car in the city (which is wasteful on all accounts unless you drive it every single day) sign up to have a fleet of backup cars at your beckon call, or the occasional sports car for client meetings/showing off around town. It’s win-win-win.
If you love the sound of these communities, then you should already be signed up on the Independents Hall mailing list and keeping up with our progress. If you’re outside of the Philadelphia area, then check out the coworking wiki to see if there’s already a space near you, or if there’s a chance to start your own community and change the way you look at using resources.
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