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Car-share program adds site in Talent

After Nancy Hutchison's 1986 BMW with nearly 400,000 miles lost its engine on Siskiyou Summit last summer, the Talent resident turned to AshlandCarShare, which had placed one of its vehicles in town.

"It was perfect timing," she said. "I was pretty much without a car. It wasn't worth repairing, and I didn't have the money to go get a new one."

Hutchison's share membership allows her to reserve use of a hybrid Toyota Prius that's parked at Tark's Market.

Under her Share a Lot plan she pays $25 per month, plus $3.95 per hour of car use and 30 cents per mile. The nonprofit organization covers all costs for gas, oil, maintenance and insurance for its 59 members, 10 of whom live in Talent.

Car sharing began in March with one Prius, and two more were added a little later. Cars in Ashland are left at Safeway and on Faith Avenue at Siskiyou Boulevard. Members use electronic keys to gain access after reserving time online or by phone.

"We were beginning to get requests to move one of the cars to Talent. We decided to take a leap and see what happened, and it's been very successful," said Becky Brown, the organization's executive director.

Car-share costs are designed to be less than those of owning, repairing and insuring a private vehicle, she said.

Brown said Talent members are representative of the three types of users she generally sees. There are young, single people without cars who rely mostly on bikes or buses; older people who may think of buying a car but opt for the car share; and families who use the Toyotas as second vehicles.

"It's used daily in Talent. Our members report they are available when they need them," said Brown. "We haven't hit the point where we need to add another vehicle."

Hutchison lives three miles outside town and rides a bike to get to the Prius. She used the car five to seven times per week in better weather, but now she uses it about four days per week.

"I can get it most of the time when you need it. I need to go to Ashland to take care of business and do errands," said Hutchison. "Sometimes I have to go to Medford."

Hutchison could use the car for longer tips, where her rate would be $45 per day and 15 cents per mile after the first 100 miles (The first 100 miles are free). She also gets a free RVTD bus pass.

"I haven't taken any long drives, but it's nice to have the option," said Hutchison. "I worried about breaking down with the BMW on long trips."

Hutchison was initially on the Share a Little plan, which has no monthly fee but costs $7.95 per hour and 30 cents per mile. On this plan, the daily, 24-hour rate is $50, plus 15 cents per mile. Both plans have special night-owl rates for the hours between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. Members on either plan pay $50 to join, but students at Southern Oregon University and Rogue Community College pay $25.

After six months of the program, each car had been driven between 4,000 and 6,000 miles. Brown projects that three vehicles can support up to 100 members.

"The most common usage is short errands around town or running to Medford," said Brown. "Out-of-town trips are next up ... people going to the Bay Area or Portland."

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboom8929@charter.net.