Containing and reducing fleet costs continues to be a key challenge to many government fleet managers. In August 2005, the city of Portland, Ore. — the self-described birthplace of U.S. carsharing — implemented a carsharing pilot program for its motor pool fleet. The program is expected to save the city approximately $30,000, or 25 percent, of the current motor pool’s annual operating, maintenance, and fuel costs. Bruce Cross, now-retired fleet manager for CityFleet, the city of Portland’s fleet division, helped kick off the pilot program with Flexcar, a provider of carsharing vehicles. The city has about 2,600 vehicles representing light-duty vans, sedans, and pickups, in addition to heavy equipment. Previously, CityFleet kept 25 central motor pool vehicles available to city employees. That number has been reduced to 13 during the transition to the carsharing program. Lowering Costs without Sacrificing Mobility
During the pilot program, city employees reserve Flexcar vehicles online and pick up the cars at a number of locations in downtown Portland via a smart card. Trips are billed by the hour, with gas and insurance included in the cost of the trip. “The program’s intent is to lower the city’s operational costs for the short-term transportation needs of city employees, without sacrificing service,” said Cross. Employees register individually with Flexcar, and each bureau is billed directly for the use. About 80 carshare vehicles are located in downtown Portland, available on a first-come first-serve basis. About half of the available vehicles are gas-electric hybrids, mostly Honda Civics. “Overall, drivers have expressed mostly positive feedback about the carsharing program,” said Cross. The benefits for employees who are also individual members of the Flexcar program include a large savings on the expense of car ownership, such as purchase, maintenance, operating costs, insurance, and parking. It also allows for carshare members to use lower emission vehicles. The city benefits as well. “The carsharing program allows us to reduce an asset of approximately $150,000 in motor pool value, eliminate the need for capital expenses to upgrade software and key management systems, and increase the opportunity for employees to use more emissions-friendly vehicles and choose alternative-fuel vehicles,” said Cross. A review of the pilot program is expected throughout the first year to fully determine its effectiveness and cost savings.