ZipCar held its second Low-Car Diet Challenge in Pittsburgh recently, when 25 people handed over their car keys for a month. The turn-out last year was 17.
Lindsay Patross was one of this year's participants. She has been a ZipCar member for a year and has been thinking about giving up her car. "This was an opportunity for me to try it out."
Lindsay, 29, who lives in Shadyside and owns the blog www.iheartpgh.com, wanted to walk more and drive less, she said. She has had a few toe-in-the-water experiences without a car. She did without a car through much of college and, last January, lent her car to a family member in January and got along OK.
Greg Tanski, a fifth-year architecture student at Carnegie Mellon University, wrote this e-mail about his decision to go on the 'diet':
- "Coming to Pittsburgh in 2005, when I started at Carnegie Mellon, I did not bring a car and found it easy to get around as I remained on campus for most of my activities. However, over the past few years, I've found that while PAT buses and my bike can get me most places, it's difficult to make longer trips or to be able to make trips for groceries or other shopping trips without a car. I've had a car in Pittsburgh since the beginning of this summer, and have found that aside from a couple of times a week, it mostly just stays parked. I've had friends who have had Zipcar for the past year or so, and after seeing advertisements for the Low Car Diet, thought it would be a great opportunity to give it a try. I intend to return my car back to my parents; house as soon as possible to avoid the hassle of dealing with a car in the city and to rely on Zipcar whenever I'm in need of a vehicle, which hopefully won't be often."
Others who took the challenge this year are Lindsay Baxter, the city's sustainability coordinator, Lou Fineberg, Bike Pittsburgh's Car-Free Fridays coordinator and Jason Kambitsis, a senior planner for the city.
ZipCar is a car sharing plan for people who do not own cars or who need a second-car option. When you join, you pick a plan best for you, pay a one-time or annual fee depending on the plan, get a ZipCard and a number with which you reserve cars near your home or work. (Visit www.zipcar.com.) Your key is your card swiped along the windshield. The device registers that it is indeed your card opening the door and your card swiping to lock it back at its home base at the appointed time.
All the participants got a free full-year membership in ZipCar and goodies from BikePittsburgh, CommuteInfo and Brueggers Bagels.
Last year's survey results indicate that 58% of the 300 participants in 12 cities planned to continue their lives without owning a car.
The survey results further showed that, after taking the challenge:
- Combined, participants reduced vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by 100,000 miles, driving 71% fewer miles than before the challenge.
- Combined, participants saved nearly 4,000 gallons of fuel and prevented more than 75,000 pounds of carbon emissions.
- Participants increased their miles walked by 85%, miles biked by more than 100% and public transit trips by 65%
- Forty percent of participants reported that the Low-Car Diet led them to lose weight, due to the increased amount of walking and biking.
- Respondents spent 61% less on costs associated with owning and using a car.