The last time Austin resident Judi Zink owned a car was about a year ago. After getting rid of her 1990 Acura Legend, Zink signed up for I-GO, a car-sharing program that allows members to use a car at any time for a yearly fee.
I-GO, created by the nonprofit Neighborhood Technology Center, provides cars for Chicago, Oak Park and other surrounding suburbs.
The program, which has been around for about 5 years, has a fleet of 160 cars. All of the cars are low-emission vehicles, or LEV’s, and one-third are hybrid cars, making them among the most environmentally-friendly cars on the road, users say.
Zink, who works for a Chicago not-for-profit organization, uses a hybrid Honda Civic car. She lives right on the Austin boarder to Oak Park and uses one of the two cars parked a few blocks away in a garage just south of Lake Street and Oak Park Avenue. She either takes the Austin el or rides her bike to pick up the car.
“I like the idea of sharing cars with people in my community,” said Zink.
Oak Park has four cars with two parked together at two locations.
Zink on occasion has used an I-GO car parked downtown.
Although the cars are environmentally-friendly, most members, like Zink, use the service because it saves them money.
Members don’t pay for gas, and they’re not responsible for car payments or insurance as they would be with their own vehicle.
Zink estimates that she saves about $1,200-$1,400 a year by using the program. Amounts can vary by member but some users estimate even higher savings. Zink, like other members, found that she was spending more and more on her car but used it infrequently, especially with public transportation as a option.
“Those reasons are strong motivators for me-I could not justify owning a car,” said Zink.
I-GO has about 6,000 members, most of whom use the cars primarily for quick trips or to run errands.
They pay a one-time $75 charge to join and a $25 yearly renewal. One of the main attractions for members is that cars can be used 24/7.
But there are those members who also like that the cars are environmentally-friendly, said Richard Kosmacher, sales and marketing manager for I-GO.
The low-emission vehicles are an industry standard, Kosmacher said. Because they’re LEV’s, they produce less emissions than most other cars on the road, and with more I-GO cars on the road, there’s less traffic congestion and pollution, Kosmacher said.
“They think this is a great way to enable people to save money and help the environment,” he said of members, who also don’t have to worry about paying for parking.
Members can schedule to use a car by phone or at I-GO’s website (www.igocars.org). Members use a smart card to unlock the vehicle and access its keys, which are inside the cars. When they’re done, members return the cars to their location, lock them up and the vehicles are ready for another user.
He also noted, based on surveys the organization periodically conducts, that members use mass transit more as members than they did with their own cars.
Zink also uses public transportation. She said it did take her a while to get used to not owning a car.
“I realized I was pretty dependent on my car. Now, I’m dependent on I-GO,” she said.
For more information on the I-GO car-sharing program, visit www.igocars.org, or call 773/278-4446.