Photo via Cook County.

Photo via Cook County.

Cook County, Ill., has saved about $250,000 with a car sharing program in its first year by downsizing the vehicle fleet by 10 cars; cutting mileage reimbursement; and salvaging older vehicles.

Employees used Zipcars and the county's shared fleet of existing vehicles outfitted with Zipcar's FastFleet technology. Previously most of the county's passenger vehicles were assigned to various departments and were not being used to maximum efficiency. In other cases, county employees used their own cars on official business and filed expense claims for reimbursement.

By reducing its fleet by 10 vehicles, the county saved in fuel costs, maintenance, and insurance. These vehicles were sold for salvage value and savings were achieved by not purchasing replacements, a county release stated. Countywide auto-related reimbursement to employees also declined, a portion of which can be attributed to the car sharing program.

"The first-year results have been promising as hundreds employees signed up for car sharing programs, used our existing vehicles more efficiently or weaned themselves from the habit of driving personal vehicles on County business," said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. "We plan to add vehicles to the fleet and evaluate whether we can mothball older vehicles that have passed their useful lives. We also plan to encourage more employees to join these programs so we can continue to cut costs."

Cook County's car sharing program provides employees with two options.  The Shared Fleet — composed of County-owned cars found at three locations — allows employees to make reservations for longer trips related to official business. A contract with Zipcars — composed of privately owned fuel-efficient vehicles located throughout Cook County — allows employees to reserve vehicles for short-term trips.

The Shared Fleet has 17 vehicles available for County employees who work in 27 different departments. Employees made almost 1,900 reservations for Shared Fleet vehicles in the past 12 months and nearly 500 Zipcars reservations. Roughly 400 County employees are signed up to use Shared Fleet vehicle and about 200 are enrolled with Zipcar.

"Our Shared Fleet vehicles were driven nearly 30,000 miles last year," Preckwinkle said. "Through our Vehicle Steering Committee, we continue to look for ways to expand and improve the program. In line with our focus on sustainability and cost-efficiency, we plan to buy three hybrid and two electric vehicles for the Shared Fleet this year to replace older vehicles which we will retire."

County employees reserve Shared Fleet vehicles and Zipcars online and access them with swipe cards. The County uses technology to track how often the vehicles are driven, where they are going, and where Shared Fleet vehicles need to be moved to meet employee needs.