February 24, 2008
Raise your hand if you’ve heard of car-sharing.
Husband and I just completed our transfer from Flexcar to Zipcar this afternoon. The two car-sharing companies merged earlier this year to provide cities across the U.S. and Canada with a fleet of little cars available for use by the “tens of thousands of smiling drivers” registered to share automobile transport.
Following our spring 2006 move to the Big City, my sweetie and I realized that owning a car was not only a drag our our finances (insurance, gas, occasional repairs, etc.), but also a drag on the environment. Plus, Metro buses got us where we needed to go, and Amtrak got us to our parents’ collective hometown. So we sold the ol’ boat and signed up for Flexcar (a.k.a., Zipcar).
While we do drive autonomously sometimes (one time, we hauled a snappy 1940s English bar cabinet home from an antique mall in the Greenwood neighborhood; another time, we hauled our aforementioned needle-eating kitty to the emergency vet), we’ve found that, as city dwellers, regular car travel isn’t really necessary. Walking, biking (in Husband’s case), and riding el autobus works just fine. Small move, maybe not-so-small impact.
Of course, Washington State is now subjecting car-sharers to the state-mandated 9.7% rental-car tax. Off-base, given the preponderance of Zipcar members who have forsaken personal wheels in favor of shared ones? Not quite, according to car-rental corporations and state tax collectors. They allege that there isn’t a whole heap of difference between the services offered by Zipcar and those offered by Hertz, for example. What’s more, Community Car Share, based just north of Seattle in Bellingham, Wash., has been charging the rental-car tax since its inception in 2006.
Certainly, it seems that car-sharing programs create an alternative to car ownership for many folks, and, in that way, help reduce carbon emissions. It follows that this eco-friendly model should be rewarded in some way — and a tax break could serve nicely as that reward.
But couldn’t the same be said for Hertz and Enterprise and Alamo? Perhaps not, as those companies haven’t dotted the urban landscape with logo-emblazoned vehicles, as has Zipcar. Moreover, because these companies are headquartered at SeaTac international airport, which is serviced heavily by mass transit hailing from multiple counties, it could be said that these companies are quite literally fueling the car culture.
Anybody else make the switch from car-owner to car-sharer? Your thoughts on the tax?