Monday, December 1, 2008

Renewable Transportation Field, Car Sharing Category

Emcee: Debra Poneman

Our next award recipient is I-GO Car Sharing and accepting for IGO will be Sharon Feigon, CEO.

I-GO Car Sharing is a Chicago-based non-profit committed to economical and environmentally sound transportation choices. I-GO’s goals are to reduce car ownership rates, lower family transportation costs, reduce urban congestion and improve air quality in neighborhoods across the metropolitan area.

Since I-GO’s launch in 2002, Feigon has overseen the steady growth of the organization, which currently numbers more than 12,000 members who use 200 cars located in more than 30 neighborhoods across Chicago, Evanston, and Oak Park.

I-GO is part of a burgeoning worldwide movement in sustainable transportation that traces its origins to pioneering programs in Europe during the late 1980s. American car sharing began in Portland, Oregon, in 1998, and since then, spurred by rising energy and transportation costs and environmental concerns, has taken off with estimates of some 250,000 car-share users today in the U.S. and Canada.

I-GO is currently the third largest non-profit car-sharing company in North America. The statistics speak for themselves: I-GO added 3,000 new members in 2008 alone, has taken 3,276 vehicles off the roads in Chicago, saved its members $16.8 million in household expenses, and reduced CO2 emissions by nearly 25,000 tons annually.

Car sharing is a self-accessing service that provides members with access to a fleet of vehicles on a half-hourly basis 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Members of I-GO reserve a car online or by phone, then walk or take transit to the parking space where the nearest car is located. An electronic key card held over a windshield-mounted sensor opens the car door, and members’ trip data is captured when they remove and later replace a key fob from a keypad that’s linked by satellite to a computerized reservation system.

I-GO members pay a low annual fee, and choose a monthly rate plan that suits their needs, with hourly rates averaging about $8 an hour. I-GO picks up the tab for gas, insurance, reserved parking, and maintenance.

I-GO is also the only car-sharing organization in the Chicago metro area with 100 percent low-emission vehicles, about half of which are electric hybrid cars. That emphasis on curbing greenhouse gas emissions was initially shaped by the Center for Neighborhood Technology, a 30-year-old non-profit organization whose mission is to invent and implement new strategies that make urban communities more livable and environmentally sustainable. Referring to itself as a “creative think-and-do tank,” CNT works across disciplines and issues, including transportation and community development, energy, natural resources, and climate change. CNT launched I-GO as a pilot project with support from the City of Chicago and the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Feigon has shepherded many new partnerships and resources at I-GO--most recently, a pilot program with the Chicago Transit Authority, to be launched by the end of 2008, that will allow access to I-GO vehicles, CTA trains and buses, and PACE buses through one combined smart card. I-GO is committed to expanding transportation options for all communities and making Chicago’s public transportation system the premier system in the world. Ultimately, says Feigon, I-GO would like for car sharing to become an integrated part of that system, with seamless transfers between PACE, CTA, Metra and car sharing.

Is I-GO making a positive environmental impact? The company’s research shows that nearly 50 percent of its members who owned cars when they joined I-GO have sold their cars after six months of participation in the program. Furthermore, 56 percent of participants have reported that they either postponed buying a car or sold a car before they joined I-GO. These figures indicate that as the program grows to scale, it has the potential to produce not only significant environmental benefits, but also significantly lower costs of transportation for families.

Automobile ownership is expensive--up to $7,300 a year in the Chicago area--and it causes considerable air pollution and congestion. One-third of CO2 emissions in the U.S. come from the transportation sector.

I-GO has demonstrated that it can reduce the cost of transportation for its members up to $4,000 a year, reduce up to 17 cars for every I-GO car on the road, and at the same time increase the use of public transportation by up to three trips a week. I-GO is now seeking to expand car sharing to a much larger scale so that it can produce not only major environmental benefits, but also significantly lower costs of transportation, particularly for moderate-income families in the Chicago region.

It is our honor to present this award to Sharon and I-GO car sharing.