Willamette Introduces Car-Sharing Program

Willamette University is bringing a new car-sharing program to Salem that gives local residents another form of alternative transportation.

Flexcar, a national program, allows members to "rent" a car for a nominal hourly fee that includes fuel and insurance. The program is cheaper than a traditional car rental and is not limited to people older than 21. Many metro areas across the country, including Portland and Seattle, already have Flexcar programs.

Potential users become members and reserve vehicles online. They receive an ID card that allows them to unlock a Flexcar vehicle, parked in a designated space, and then return the vehicle to that space when finished.

Two vehicles will be available in Salem: a Honda Civic Hybrid parked by Willamette's Kaneko Commons on Mill Street, and a Subaru wagon on Ferry Street near downtown.

The purpose of the program is to encourage more people to use public transportation, says Joe Bowersox, environmental science professor. This could help alleviate downtown parking issues and also reduce the amount of carbon emissions in the area, he said.

"Many community members have barriers to using alternative transportation to get downtown," Bowersox said. "They might think they need to drive to work because they have a doctor's appointment or an errand to run in the middle of the day. This gives you assurance that if you walk, ride a bike or take the bus to work, you have something available to help you make those side trips quickly."

The program also gives potential downtown residents the option of living car free, Bowersox said.

On the Willamette campus, the goal is to get fewer students to bring vehicles to school, which helps alleviate parking woes and reduces the university's overall carbon footprint.

For the first year of the program at Willamette, Flexcar is waiving the membership fee, which normally is $35 annually. Rates start at $9 an hour or $65 a day. For membership information and reservations, visit