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.