Going on a Low-Car Diet

End our reliance on foreign oil?  More than a dozen San Diegans are doing a lot more than just talking about it.  They literally gave up their cars for a month by dropping their car keys in a lockbox as part of the first ever San Diego Low-Car Diet. Sponsored by Flexcar, Metropolitan Transit System, Amtrak, Air Pollution Control District, the American Lung Association, and Universal Studios, the participants pledged to use Flexcar and other modes of transportation to get around town for the month of February.
 
While we are certain the participants have altruistic motives, they might also find ditching their cars to be a big money-saver.  San Diego has some of the highest insurance and gas prices in the country, not to mention serious traffic.  Because of that, San Diegans are increasingly looking for alternatives to owning a car, but not at the expense of convenience. San Diego's bus and trolley system can provide part of the alternative and walking adds the bonus of great health benefits. There's no doubt that sometimes you just need a car and Flexcar is a vital part of the transportation mix in the low-car diet.  Flexcar, which allows participants to share cars on a rational basis, gives participants the option to use a car when they truly need one, rather than owning one full time.

"In many ways, Flexcar is like an iPod," said William del Valle, the general manager of Flexcar's San Diego office. "Hardly anyone buys a full CD anymore when you can buy the one or two songs you really like via iTunes. With Flexcar, people only pay for the time they need a car -- about $10 an hour, which includes gas, insurance, parking, maintenance, unlimited miles, and 24/7 emergency service."
 
Low-Car Diet participants will be given 25 hours of free Flexcar use during the month, as well as a transit pass and other goodies including two roundtrip Amtrak tickets to Los Angeles and free passes to Universal Studios designed to make their month-long car "diet" enjoyable. Should they complete the month without driving their own car, they will be awarded free hours of Flexcar use each month for a year. And if they decide to sell their own car and continue to use Flexcar, they will enjoy savings of up to several hundred dollars per month over owning a personal vehicle.

"For those who have been reluctant to use public transit because they need their car during the work day for travel to and from meetings, Flexcar is the answer," says San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts.  Now San Diegans can take the bus or trolley to work, knowing that there's an affordable way to get more places they want to go."

Part of the appeal of living and working downtown in San Diego is the number of amenities that are reachable by walking throughout the city. Restaurants, nightlife, groceries, coffee, and health clubs are all located within arms reach of urban residents. Add to that an excellent transit system including a trolley system with stops in every downtown neighborhood, and the region is ripe for a low-car environment. Fewer cars mean less pollution, less congestion and more room for open spaces -- all highly desired elements in urban planning.

Cleveland-based auto journalist Luigi Fraschini notes that his home city is much like San Diego...without the palm trees and surfers, that is.