Car-sharing service comes to campus

Area residents and frequenters will soon be able to rent cars near the University’s St. Paul campus.

The HOURCAR program, the Twin Cities’ first car-sharing service, will open a location near the St. Paul campus in early August. It will be the company’s fifth location in the Twin Cities.

The Neighborhood Energy Consortium, a nonprofit organization that provides environmental programs to residents and businesses, created the HOURCAR program, said Mary Morse, the consortium’s executive director.

The program has six cars that have been operational since June 20, Morse said.

“People become members so they can use cars everywhere. It doesn’t have to be one location,” Morse said. “If you live in Uptown, you may still want to use the St. Anthony Park car at some point.”

HOURCAR members make self-service reservations online or by phone, pick up the car at their neighborhood hub, return the car to the same reserved parking space, lock it up, and walk away. HOURCAR pays for gas, insurance and parking.

Members are billed monthly for the membership cost. The standard plan is $5 per month, $6.95 per hour or 45 cents per mile, according to HOURCAR’s Web site. The value plan is $20 per month, with lower costs per hour and mile.

Customers must also have five years of driving experience, Morse said.

He said he thinks the St. Paul location will be “great” for older students, graduate students and University faculty members and staff members, and expects to expand to more University-area neighborhoods in the next few months, she said.

Michele Quaranto has been a member of the HOURCAR program since May, and hasn’t had a car for approximately four years, she said.

“Due to cutting back on expenses and living near the 16 bus line, I realized I can probably do without one,” Quaranto said.

Quaranto needed something for emergencies such as doctor appointments or for errands, she said.

“So far it’s been filling in all those transportation gaps. I can’t get to certain places on the bus or my bicycle when the weather is bad,” she said.

Quaranto said she has been using the downtown Minneapolis hub right after work. She said she thinks the new hub will also be convenient for her because it is only approximately five minutes away from where she lives.