HOURCAR?makes changes to encourage student use

By Andrew Guyton

St. Paul-based HOURCAR announced plans last month to open its services from drivers 21 and up to drivers as young as 18, opening the door for the breadth of Macalester students for the first time since the company expanded its operation into the nearby parking lot across from Patagonia on Grand Ave near the George Draper Dayton dorm. HOURCAR, a member-based car sharing service, had previously limited eligibility to drivers with at least five years of experience, effectively providing access only to those over the age of 21.

HOURCAR owns and maintains a fleet of cars throughout the Twin Cities on behalf of members who pay a monthly fee of $5-20. All the operational costs, including gas and insurance, are covered by the company.

Members simply borrow the car when available for a period of time and return it to the hub they took it from, and then pay for the time driving by the hour or mile – $4.95-6.95 per hour, or $.09-.49 per mile, depending on the type of membership.

HOURCAR Program Manager Ari Ofsevit ’06 said that the company was able to lower the age because they have established a good record with their insurance companies.

“It all has to do with the insurance policies,” Ofsevit said. “When we started the program, we shad no track record, but now the insurance companies don’t see us as as big of a risk as they used to. Three years of operating without any issues helps on this front. The companies are saying ‘This is a market that has safe drivers, so it should be fine to extend these privileges to younger people.'”

Ofsevit said that they realized the need for a lower age limit when he tabled on campus in January. He noticed that several students were interested in the program, but almost everyone he talked to was too young.

Right now, about six Macalester students are HOURCAR members. But Ofsevit hopes that shifting the policy will increase on-campus membership to the point where “we can start talking about adding another vehicle.”

If this happens, a portion of the money needed to buy the new car would likely come from Macalester’s High Winds Fund. The fund helped finance HOURCAR’s first foray onto campus.

“We helped fund their campus hub and the Prius at a cost of $22,000,” High Winds Director Tom Welna ’86 said. “But when you compare that to the cost of building and maintaining a St. Paul parking space at $15,000, it’s hard to see why you wouldn’t want to spend the extra money. Having HOURCAR on campus just provides a lot of practical benefits to the college.”

Welna said that he wants to see HOURCAR grow over the next few years on campus.

“Our goal is that, in five years, we’ll have several cars on campus. We’re looking at ways to build this partnership, so that five years down the road, when gas is upwards of $10 a gallon, Macalester is well set up to handle this problem.