Tuesday, May 10, 2005

I-Go bats .1000 in Chicago

The bases are loaded at CNT stadium and CEO Sharon Feigon is up to bat. She's aiming to hit a home run! (That's baseball talk, folks.)

Chicago's non-profit carsharing service celebrated several milestones this month - most significantly, its 1000th member and fleet expansion to 30 vehicles. The service, operated by the non-profit Center for Neighborhood Technology, is also celebrating award of a $419,000 grant from Congestion Management and Air Quality (CMAQ) fund, as well as a grant of $30,000 from the LaSalle National Bank. And last month I-Go expanded into the nearby university town of Evanston with 2 cars at the Howard Street Elevated rail station.

I-GO has vehicle locations in downtown Chicago: Millennium Park, Printers Row, South Loop, and Streeterville/River East. Other I-GO locations are in Lakeview, Edgewater/Andersonville, Lincoln Square, Hyde Park, Near North/Gold Coast, Wicker Park, Lincoln Park and Logan Square. New locations are coming to Rogers Park, Evanston, South Shore and others. I-Go members pay a one-time fee of $75 and then $6 an hour and 50 cents a mile to drive Honda Civics, including several hybrids and Honda Element SUVs.

I-Go decided to subcontract with Flexcar for back office services, including member approval, reservations and billing. I-Go staff handles marketing, member relations and fleet management (and sets their own rates). Cars are equipped with the Vetronix vehicle access/tracking system. I-Go (and Flexcar) advertise that they're part of the "Flexcar Network", which includes reciprocal use of vehicles in other Flexcar cities.

I-Go experiences the demands of partnership efforts differently than in other cities. Chicago is still run by locally-elected aldermen (& women) who sit on the City Council. They have the keys to the neighborhoods they represent and are crucial to getting recognition and favors within them.

I-Go got off to a rocky start its first few years, following planning efforts by CNT staffer Kim Hoeveler, the program went through several project directors who scattered isolated vehicles throughout the city. When Sharon Feigon took over as CEO, she closed some locations and started clusters in neighborhoods that are likely to show more promise. Although vehicles are still spread out, they will be adding more vehicles around these clusters - ambitiously projecting 70 more vehicles by the end of the year.

CNT has a long history of innovative transportation projects, including developing the Location Efficient Mortgage program which enables stretched loan to value ratios for home mortgages in transportation-rich environments and Travel Matters. a website for calculating transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions. I-Go's website is at the link below.