Cornelia Scholz lives in Cologne and commutes the 40 kilometers to Düsseldorf by train because the traffic is so dreadful. She used to have a car, but she sold it after realizing that she was paying a small fortune to keep it sitting outside her house. Occasionally she still needed a car but didn’t want to hire one for a whole day for small trips. What could she do?
Cornelia joined Stattauto, one of a number of car-sharing organizations in Europe, and became one of 35 people who share three cars. Now she just calls a 24-hour number, books the car for when she needs it, picks it up from a garage and returns it when she’s finished. At the end of each month, she receives an itemized bill for the hours and number of kilometers she drove the car.
Cologne is one of 49 cities throughout Germany, Switzerland, and Austria where cars are shared this way. In some of these cities, the concept has really taken off.
Stattauto in Berlin has 57 vehicles – small cars, station wagons, and minibuses – shared by 800 registrants. Each has a magnetized plastic card to open a safe, placed near each car’s parking spot, that contains the car’s keys and registration documents. The card doubles as a ticket on the Berlin public transport system and can also be used as a charge card for taxicabs – so all urban transportation needs are met by one card, reinforcing the idea that the various forms of transport all have different functions to play in an integrated city transportation policy.
Those planning out-of-town travel can book cars in other cities through a network of car-sharing organizations. That way, they can travel by train to their destination, and then use a share car for trips around town.
To many members, the system’s practical advantages are closely linked to the environmental benefits; sharing saves parking space, eases traffic, and allows cars to be used more intensively.
In Berlin, Stattauto’s vehicles cover an average of 36,000 kilometers a year – compared to a national average in German cities of 15,000 km.