HOURCAR, the car-sharing network run by the Neighborhood Energy Connection (NEC), announced Wednesday that they will be expanding from 39 to 70 cars throughout the Twin Cities. The expansion is made possible by two grants, one from the McKnight Foundation and one from the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative, and will take place over the next year.
The expansion was announced to members at an event hosted by HUGE theater in Minneapolis. The theater, which is an improv comedy spot, will be hosting a new HOURCAR hub in their parking lot. The event was attended by members young and old, demonstrating the varied appeal of the service.
Currently HOURCAR maintains and rents out 39 cars that are mostly small, fuel efficient models at various hub locations in Minneapolis and St. Paul. The 31 new vehicles will bring greater variety in both location and type of car. New cars will enter the system starting this month, continuing until all 31 are in place. There are plans to purchase more pickup trucks and possibly a minivan or small SUV.
“HOURCAR proves that car sharing can increase our choices in how we live and work,” said McKnight Foundation president Kate Wolford. “McKnight has invested in this vision since 2007, and we’re pleased now to support HOURCAR’s expansion along key corridors in Minneapolis and St. Paul where housing and transportation affordability are well aligned.”
The grant from the McKnight Foundation will help HOURCAR expand into new Minneapolis neighborhoods, while a grant from the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative will introduce hubs along the central corridor. A press release claims that “new HOURCAR hubs will be located in transit-friendly, residentially dense neighborhoods in Minneapolis and St. Paul.”
“Our group was particularly excited about HOURCAR’s plan to locate new hubs at key Green Line LRTstops,” said Polly Talen, co-chair of the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative.
The announcement of plans to increase membership and available vehicles in the program comes on the heels of the City of Minneapolis’ Transportation and Public Works Committee’s discussion of support for car sharing. Earlier this week, a committee met to discuss the possibility of a city-wide car sharing program. The committee plans to pilot the program and partner with existing services in order to increase options in Minneapolis. HOURCAR has submitted a proposal to partner with the city for the pilot. Such a partnership could move hubs from private parking lots to public streets and help move into new neighborhoods. The purpose of the expansion is to provide the car-sharing service to more people, rather than to increase the use by each member. HOURCAR serves 1,900 members with the current fleet of 39 cars. The expansion means that the service could grow to include 3,500 members.
HOURCAR is part of a consortium of independent car sharing groups across the country whose main interest is decreasing the dependence on single passenger vehicles. By providing car rentals by the hour, members can rely more heavily on transit, biking and walking.
HOURCAR was designed and founded by Macalester alumna Mary Morse ‘82, and the NEC’s executive director is also an alumnus. The hub across from Patagonia hosts four cars, making it the largest in the program. There are currently no plans to further expand this hub, though new hubs could be planned along Grand Avenue.