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Hourcar adds Seward Co-op as vehicle-sharing hub

  • May 10, 2009 - 11:17 PM

Shoppers at the newly reopened Seward Co-op in Minneapolis can bring their organic vegetables home in green style -- in a borrowed Honda Insight hybrid.

Hourcar, the Twin Cities' growing car-sharing program, opened its newest hub at the grocery co-op's expanded 2111 E. Franklin Av. location last month.

HOW IT WORKS: Car sharing allows members of the service to pay hourly or daily to use a car, thus avoiding the high costs associated with long-term car ownership. The idea has been popular in the United States for about 10 years, and European countries have been sharing cars for even longer.

DEVELOPED IN ST. PAUL: Hourcar was developed in 2005 by St. Paul's Neighborhood Energy Connection (NEC), a nonprofit environmental group. The program has grown from a little more than 100 members in 2005 to 750 by the end of 2008, said Christopher Bineham, Hourcar's member services and marketing coordinator.

FLEET EXPANSION: With the addition of the Seward Co-op hub, Hourcar's fleet now includes 20 cars at 18 locations in Minneapolis and St. Paul. A 2008 matching grant of up to $150,000 from the McKnight Foundation should help the company continue to expand.

Car sharing is also meant to encourage people to bike, walk or ride public transit, relying on a car only when necessary.

"Our mission is an environmental one," Bineham said.

WHAT ABOUT TRUCKS?: In the same vein of environmental preservation, Bineham said he's also been approached by members who would like an alternative to owning a pickup for the occasional need to haul or tow heavy loads.

Several hybrid trucks are on the market right now, and while the NEC is considering adding a pickup to the Hourcar lineup, it's still too expensive, he said.

NICOLE TOMMERDAHL

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