So Long, Austin CarShare

Austin's original car-sharing program skids to a stop

Saddled with substantial debt and facing declining ridership, Austin CarShare informed its members on Tuesday that it has permanently ceased operations. The nonprofit's insurance company suspended its coverage July 22 when ACS was unable to pay its bill. ACS does not intend to declare bankruptcy, said board members Thomas Butler and Brian Donovan; the organization instead plans to sell its vehicles to settle bank loans and other debts. Car2Go's entrance in the Austin market "was definitely a factor" in the program's demise, Butler said, but ACS nonetheless worked closely with Car2Go – which has a far larger fleet, the ability to rent to students ages 18-20 (forbidden by ACS's insurance), and the backing of deep corporate pockets at Daimler – to advance the larger goal of promoting car-sharing as a transportation option. Car2go is now offering free, expedited memberships to all ACS members. "I think car-sharing is going to become more and more important as a supportive partner for transit going forward," said Butler. "Obviously we're very disappointed right now, but we don't see this as a failed endeavor." During its 3½-year run, said Butler, ACS helped reduce local smog and greenhouse gas emissions. A letter sent to ACS members on Tuesday noted that during a six-month pilot project with the city in 2009, "use of ACS vehicles saved 2,000 gallons of gasoline and kept 40,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions out of the air."

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