Oberlin Alumni Magazine Spring 2001 vol.96 no.4
Feature Stories
Planet Earth
High Atop Wilder
[cover story] Creating a Scene
You've Got Mail: Now What?
Experience, Exposure & Enlightenment
Body Art
Message from the Board of Trustees
Around Tappan Square
Oberlin Partnership sharpens Economic Development
Composing a Career
President Dye's Sabbatical
Closing Institutional Devides
In Brief
Alumni Notes: Profile
Alumni Notes: Losses
The Last Word
Staff Box
One More Thing
Drivers Take a Back Seat to Car Buying

For 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?

That 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 39  Bradshawownership. 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.

Chris 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.

"This 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.

As 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

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