27 February 2009

Kevin rescues the Fleet Coordinator in the aftermath of "Snowmageddon"

After 8 inches of snow last night, the real work began. At least 10 HOURCARs would need to be dug out of the snow. The HOURCAR team had their instructions and the four of us got to work. I took my fancy "steel core" shovel from home, thinking it would make for quicker work.

The first car I went to was #16, North Loop. The cobblestone streets around the hub were curiously absent of snow. And so was the Yaris. It was as if the winds had blown a path to the door of the car. I brushed off what little snow was there and high-tailed it back to my warm car.

I made my way to car #4, expecting it to be plowed in. Driving through the slushy oatmeal of snow on the road was an adventure. All the melting has made the roads very slick under the new snow. Other than a good four foot wide swath of packed snow blocking the driveway, the parking lot is clear. There is a small path of snow around the car, but nothing even ON the vehicle. Shovel snow from beneath the tires. Back into the warm car, on to the next one.

And thats when it happened. My car got stuck in the driveway. No worries, get out, get the shovel, start digging; I've lived in the Twin Cities my entire life — I can do this. The snow is like pebbles of cement though, and as I dig I hear a crack. My shovel looked like a broken window, cracked from the handle and spidering down through the plastic blade.

As I surveyed the situation to see where I could hand dig, he came running across the busy street, carrying a small steel spade. He started to dig around my tires, and we worked together to rock the car and dig out the belly of my jalopy, trying to time everything to the traffic on Park Avenue. Finally we both felt the car lurch out of the snowbank. He gave me a thumbs up, and had to get his name. Kevin. Thanks Kevin!

On to the last car, #17 at Augsburg. Again, the lot was plowed, leaving a neat and perfect lil trail of snow about six inches around the car. The car was covered with snow, looking like a piece of candy covered in sugar. Nothing a good snow
brush couldn't handle.

My work done, I realize the temp is starting to rise. It's 8:30 a.m. They are even talking about it getting warmer throughout the day on the radio as I climb back into my car to head home. At home, I let my broken shovel get in one last good swipe around my house, just to be sure the mailman will deliver my mail today. My house is quiet, family still sleeping. A snow day for all, and a good time to blog.

(A note from the East Coast editor: eight inches of fluffy snow, despite what the teevee news says, is not "Snowmageddon." A stalled ocean storm pumping in two feet of heavy, wet snow on April Fools Day—Surprise!—in the northeast probably does qualify. So does the Halloween Blizzard of 1991. As does the Armistice Day Blizzard in 1940. Or the Blizzard of '78, of which any mention of similarity, 30-plus years later, sends the entire city of Boston to the grocery store to buy out every loaf of bread and gallon of milk.

(Less than a foot of snow predicted several days out, however, does not deserve a name.)

Note form the author - blame the Star Trib, I didn't name it! :op

26 February 2009

A friendly reminder

When it is snowing out like it is today, you are more than welcome to cancel reservations, and we'll waive any charges. Just call our office or shoot us an email or leave us some member feedback and we'll waive any cancellation or canceled time fees.

Your safety is our top priority!

When you ride alone …

Back during World War II, it meant something to ride alone. If you drove without someone else in the car, or drove when you could instead ride the streetcar (yes, World War II saw the peak ridership for most streetcar systems, including the one in the Twin Cities), you were unpatriotic. Why? Because you were using precious resources like fuel and rubber which were better suited for the war effort.

Back then, the US Government, actually asked for collective sacrifice for the greater good. We were told that we should conserve resources, grow our own food, and recycle. In fact, the Dowling Community Garden in Minneapolis has been an active garden since World War II, the last community vegetable garden in the country from the war.

(There are a whole bunch of World War II propaganda posters online, here's a good compilation.)

In any case there was a recent spat, covered by the Star Tribune, at the state legislature, concerning just this poster:
During a presentation Tuesday related to a bill to reduce carbon emissions and the number of miles vehicles in Minnesota are driven, Dr. Julian Marshall of the University of Minnesota displayed a digital slide containing two versions of the historic ad.

The original ad is an illustration of a man driving a convertible and bears the slogan "When you ride ALONE, you ride with Hitler! Join a car-sharing club TODAY!" -- the idea being that a failure to conserve resources was aiding the German dictator, who was shown riding in the passenger seat.

The parody replaced Hitler with Osama bin Laden, a reference to oil-producing countries with ties to terrorism. It came from the cover of a 2002 book by the comedian Bill Maher, which was titled, "When You Ride Alone, You Ride with bin Laden: What the Government Should Be Telling Us to Help Fight the War on Terrorism."

Maher's poster came out a few years ago, and the point he makes is that by consuming fuel we are funding the countries which sponsor terrorism. Or, as Marshall (a professor of Civil Engineering at the U) said:

"It's no secret that money spent on gasoline goes to places that are not very happy with us," Marshall said. "The issues we're talking about are all interconnected -- climate change, transportation, energy, geopolitics, climate security, energy security."

Marshall said he only meant to "provoke discussion about the effects of the state's transportation system." Of course, there were some other propaganda posters put out by the Federal Government during World War II. Each of them asked Americans to do something which would be patriotic, and help the country. One of them asked us to, well, just take a look:

Ah, yes, not only does car sharing save you money and help the environment, but it once was (and, perhaps, still is) the patriotic thing to do.

19 February 2009

Walkers and bikers are fitter

A story titled "Leaner nations bike, walk, use mass transit" crossed our desk last month. We looked at the data for Latvia, Sweden and the Netherlands, where at least 50% of commuters walk, bike or take transit to work, and where obesity rates are half of what they are in the U.S., or lower. This got me wondering: how does the nation of HOURCAR compare?

Digging in to our annual survey results from last summer, we seem to do rather well. First of all, HOURCAR members tend to use non-driving (and healthier) transportation options more after they join HOURCAR. According to our survey, after joining HOURCAR:
* 28% of our members bike more,
* 33% walk more, and
* 31% take transit more,
compared with
* 3% biking less,
* 1% walking less and
* 10% taking transit less.

* 66% of HOURCAR members walk daily (5 to 7 days per week), and 20% more walk 2-4 days per week.
* 25% of HOURCAR members bike daily, and another quarter bike at least two days a week, and
* 33% of HOURCAR members use transit every day, while another third take transit twice a week or more.
And, bucking the trend of America's car culture, 60% of HOURCAR members report they never use a personal automobile. In other words, HOURCAR members are on par, as far as using non-automotive transportation goes, with some of the healthiest countries around! So not only is HOURCAR good for the health of the environment, but it's good for the health of its members.

06 February 2009

HOURCAR on Facebook

Are you part of this social networking site called Facebook? (i.e. do you impulsively check your Facebook account every seven minutes during the entire day not getting anything else done as you wait to see wall posts all day long?)

Well, now you can add waiting for HOURCAR updates to your compulsion. HOURCAR has a Facebook page where you can see HOURCAR pictures, find out information about HOURCAR, post on our "wall" and let others see your support of sustainable car sharing in the Twin Cities. All you have to do is go to the page and become a "fan" of HOURCAR.