28 Jul The end of the road for Austin CarShare = Success!?!
I just opened the email with my monthly Austin CarShare invoice and learned that the organization ceased operations as of Thursday, July 22. As a founding board member and long-time chair/spokesperson for the nonprofit I initially had had a range of feelings about reading this news.
Does the end of the organization mean that it was a failure? What is success? Defining success is subjective and up to each of us. In the nonprofit world, the ultimate success CAN mean putting yourself out of business. Isn’t the mission of every homeless program to eliminate the sources of homelessness and need for their services?
In that vein, I declare that Austin CarShare was a success. In just 44 months it admirably accomplished several things that made a difference in the transportation landscape of Austin (and beyond), laid the groundwork for a for-profit program to launch rather easily, and had numerous positive environmental impacts.
First and foremost Austin CarShare introduced the concept of carsharing to Austin. It was the first program of its type in all of Texas and one of the first in the entire southern United States. For over three and a half years our board and member ambassadors, with the help of the media, have spread the multi-modal transportation gospel and introduced the quite radical idea (for Texans) that not having to drive your OWN vehicle can have many time-saving and financial benefits. You only pay for the part of the car that you use rather than sinking consistently large amounts of money into a rapidly depreciating asset. This is even more true when referring to people’s second and third vehicles. Dozens of print articles, TV and radio spots were done on Austin CarShare over the course of its run that helped "prime" the Austin community to understand and accept carsharing.
Austin CarShare got the City of Austin to try out carsharing, which it is still using. With the City’s cooperation Austin CarShare launched operations with a few high-visibility designated parking spaces in downtown and the promise of free parking at City meters for users of the fledgling program. After a couple years in operation the City agreed to an 8-month pilot program for City employees that served upward of a 100 City staff. Immediately following the ACS-City pilot, the pilot with car2go got underway.
Austin CarShare succeeded in saving thousands of gallons of gas from being purchased and tons of tailpipe and greenhouse gas emissions from being generated here in Austin…which has regional and global implications as well. It also succeeded in changing transporation behaviors. By all accounts from surveys conducted over the life of the organziation, the progam accomplished everything it set out to do – hundreds of thousands of vehicle miles traveled were eliminated, dozens of cars were removed from the road, participants drove less, rode transit, walked and carpooled more, they also sold vehicles they owend and delayed planned vehicle purchases, and saved money on transportation.
The group is working hard to avoid taking bankruptcy and honor all debts. What people can do to help is either make a contribution to congratulate them on a job well done and retire the debt, OR, you might also consider purchasing one of the well-maintained vehicles. Here are your choices:
A. 2006 Scion XA $7000
B. 2006 Scion XA $7000
C. 2008 Toyota Prius $15000
D. 2009 Toyota Prius $18,000
E. 2006 Toyota Tacoma Truck $17,000
If you are interested in making a contribution or purchasing a vehicle, please contact Board Treasurer Brian Donovan at firstname.lastname@example.org and please forward this information to anyone you think might be interested.
The truth is that none of us who started the organization had aspirations of being long-term fleet managers. It was a necessary step to introduce carsharing to Austin. I say "mission accomplished".
I want to acknowledge and thank everyone who served as a board member, volunteered, joined as a member (whether it was to use the service or just for moral support), donated money or services, co-signed on an auto loan, covered Austin CarShare in the media, invited representatives of ACS to table or speak at your event, attended our annual birthday party & FUNdraisers, gave us an award, voted to support our City pilot program or in any way helped advance carsharing in Austin. I thank you, the board of Austin CarShare thanks you, and the planet thanks you.