Thursday, October 06, 2005

Carsharing for Hurricane Katrina Evacuees

Does this look like your ideal carsharing community?

Probably not. But if carsharing is an alternative to owning a vehicle, one newly created group of people that are desparately looking for alternatives to owning a vehicle are those whose homes and cars were destroyed by Hurrican Katrina last month. Many of those people are going end up living in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) travel trailer communities for the next year or so. It's a perfect opportunity for some sort of carsharing.

Of course, this is a very non-traditional group of customers for the standard carsharing business model, so some creative thinking is going to be needed. The State of Louisiana has included carsharing in an application to FEMA for supplemental funding for the first trailer community now being set up near Baton Rouge. They also included bus service by the local transit agency in their proposal, as well. Apparently, nothing like this has ever been proposed to FEMA before. But then, the last big hurricane occured before there were any carsharing programs in the US.

It's also going to take some willingness to learn by doing. After all, we don't know how many people resettled in these communties will have driver's licenses, reasonably clean MVR reports and a credit or debit card. And, beyond buying groceries and going to the doctor, we have no idea what "average trip" will look like. But, we can be pretty darn sure that decent mobility is going to be an important step for residents to be able to get a job and move out of these temporary communities.

It looks like there will be more than enough trailer communities set up for every carsharing company in country to pick a camp and provide service. And why not New Orleans itself? Those who can figure it out, will have the key to providing carsharing to the less fortunate in their own backyards.

Hats off to Louisiana!