Like Joyriding… But Legal

flexcar.jpg One of L.A.’s more recent and well-kept secrets is its Flexcar program. Implemented in August 2003, Flexcar is a bossbitchinkeen concept in transportation ó car timesharing ó and the company operates and maintains a network of new hybrid sedans stationed throughout the metropolitan area that can be used by its membership who pay only for the time the car is used (usually at a $10 per-hour rate).

Being something of an alt-commute nut, I quickly became a member (there’s an initial $25 sign-up fee) when I first heard about Flexcar last September, but it was only this past Mother’s Day that I put it to use for the first time. The process is beyond simple. I went to the Flexcar website, logged in and selected the vehicle nearest to me (one is garaged at Wilshire & Vermont). I entered the dates and times for pick up and return and when it was determined the car was available to me for that full timeframe, I was done. All that was left was to go to the vehicle at the appointed time, wave my membership card at the car’s reader, get in and go. No people, no paperwork, no lines ó nothing but net, baby.

Coolest thing was that I got to cruise around town in a neato 2004 Honda Civic Hybrid sedan using less gas and putting less emissions into the air while delivering a boatload of flora from the L.A. Flower Mart to my mom and then taking her and my girlfriend to lunch at Philippe’s.

Now you might ask, “But Will, you own a vehicle… why go to all that trouble?”

Excellent question, and one you might very well ask yourself should you consider giving Flexcar a try. In my case, my truck ó though it has an extended cab with jump seats in the back ó is really not built for carrying more than two people. In addition, the A/C’s out and the truck itself is in dire need of a wash. Thus, Flexcar became a worthy and worthwhile alternative.

Certainly Flexcar isn’t for everyone. The company hypes the program as a way to help its membership (I heard there are 7,000 of us in L.A. at last count) simplify their lives and save money by providing the freedom and mobility of a car without the cha-chings (payment$, in$urance, ga$, repair$) of ownership. Nice to consider, but then there are the 99.995% of us in the City of Angles who are double-dawg never gonna permanently part with our cars (me included).

And then again, one day you might find Flexcar occasionally fitting into your plans. Say your ride’s up on the rack in the repair shop, wouldn’t it be nice to be but a bus or subway trip away from a spiff ride that you can then use for an economical hour or two or three rather than troubling your friends and loved ones to chauffeur you around, or going to the time and expense of an Enterprise or Hertz rental? It could happen!

When Susan and I returned the car to its assigned place in the garage at Wilshire and Vermont later that afternoon, locked it up and just walked away (again with no people or papers or muss ‘n fuss) I felt like we’d gotten away with something ó like joyriders ó and looked forward to the next time Flexcar would fit into my plans. It will.

2 thoughts on “Like Joyriding… But Legal”

  1. i remember really liking the carrot cake at philippe’s. but i don’t know if they actually make those or not.
    how do you (any of you) like the civic hybrid?

  2. Yeah the carrot cake at Philippe’s does look kinda store bought… but it is yumville. So was the Honda Civic Hybrid. I’ve had the pleasure of driving a Toyota Prius (owned by my friend and fellow contributor Cybele), and if I were choosing between the two I’d go Prius, but not for any real critique-able reasons. Both are smart looking, roomy, well appointed and zippy. The Prius just seems a bit better thought out (and duh… it has been around longer). My only knock on the Honda is the steering’s a little sluggish and unresponsive, not through well-defined turns, but rather through the gentlest of freeway curves or lane changes. I would find myself turning the wheel a bit only to find it incrementally slow to react. So then I would be forced to turn it a bit more and the steering would then catch up and go beyond and I’d have to turn it back, then forth… kinda like turning the knob to dial in the stereo signal of a weak radio station. It was nothing that resulted in major weaving, just some slight lateral snaking back and forth that was minorly disconcerting. Oh yeah, and my mom thought the factory speakers were a little weak.

Comments are closed.