Take a Back Seat to Car Buying
many Americans, the mere thought of giving up
their vehicles invokes panic. Having access
to a car is unarguably convenient, but is automobile
ownership necessarily the answer?
question led green-transportation advocate Chris
Bradshaw '66 to co-found the Ottawa-based Vrtucar,
an eco-friendly car-sharing organization developed
after years of brainstorming and grassroots
organizing. The enterprise was started last
May, but its concept had much earlier roots.
In 1980, Chris had visualized a sort of car
co-op, in which he and a few neighbors would
time-share a vehicle and split the costs of
But there was one big glitch: everyone admitted
to needing the car on evenings and weekends,
and the idea went back to the drawing board.
retired in 1995 after 22 years as the community
relations specialist with the Regional Municipality
of Ottawa-Carleton and spent the next five years
making Vrtucar a reality. With a name that conveys
a virtual car and a virtuous undertaking, the
organization is among 200 others in 450 cities
around the globe. Vehicles--in this case, Toyota
Echos--are conveniently located in designated
areas in Ottawa, close to members' homes, employers,
and bus stops. The organization provides access
to vehicles 24 hours a day using a system of
lock boxes and log sheets that calculate the
number of hours used and kilometers traveled.
Members can choose from four plans based on
their frequency of use. Costs include fuel,
financing, insurance, and maintenance.
system reveals all the costs associated with
each individual trip, eliminating the hidden
costs of actually owning a car," Chris says.
"What you see is what you get." The Echoes are
ideal for short jaunts around the city and must
be booked in advance. "We actually make it inconvenient
to use a car," admits Chris, who advocates carpooling
and public transportation as a traveler's first
options. It's his hope that Vrtucar overcomes
the feast-or-famine nature of car ownership,
which would allow greater access for those unable
to afford ownership costs while improving air
quality and pollution levels.
Vrtucar grows--it currently has three cars shared
by 42 members--Chris may add a minivan to the
fleet. There could also be a political future
for this alum, who ran as the Green Party candidate
in Ottawa Centre in the 1999 provincial and
2000 federal elections, receiving 3 percent
of the vote.
--by Melissa Ray '01