is a cool notion for European
and now some American city dweller
s - the shared automobile
. Zipcar members can reserve cars online; cars are parked in reserved parking spots around coverage areas, and Zipcar pays for gas, maintenance, etc. etc. Essentially, it's $4.50/hr $0.40/mile US or thereabouts.
Zipcar claims that each Zipcar replaces between 6 and 10 privately-owned cars, which has nice implications for greenhouse gas emissions, traffic, and of course parking spaces. They use smartcards to run the cars, and bill credit cards. While this wouldn't replace rentals for longer trips, it seems a great way for a student or thrifty citydweller to run those crucial errands without having to maintain a car and all that entails - parking, insurance, gas, maintenance, depreciation, etc. etc.
I dunno. If I didn't have three cars sucking down my wallet, maybe I'd give it a try. :-) They offer a trial membership, for those of you who care; around $50 of use without having to commit to the six-month membership. Check them out at www.zipcar.com.
Heck, I'm tempted to use the trial just to test-drive a new VW Beetle (they use Beetles, Golfs and Passats).