By Erica Christoffer
Maybe you’ve seen them in a parking lot near your house, zipping along a busy thoroughfare, or on display at a local street festival.
It’s I-GO Car Sharing, and the Rogers Park community has been savvy on this non-profit’s purpose for years.
“The Rogers Park community really reaches out to us because of the services we offer,” said Richard Kosmacher, I-GO’s business development manager.
I-GO offers Chicagoans an alternative transportation choice. With more than 200 fuel efficient vehicles throughout the city, including 11 in Rogers Park, I-GO focuses on reducing carbon emissions and road congestion, while improving air quality and saving customers money.
“Most individuals who join I-GO are using public transportation to get to work, but they’re using I-GO for running errands and taking short trips around town,” Kosmacher explained.
The car sharing concept was launched in 2002 by the Wicker Park-based Center for Neighborhood Technology, a non-profit that develops environmentally sustainable strategies for urban living.
I-Go membership costs $50, plus a $25 application fee. (There is also a $25 annual renewal fee.) A number of driving plans are available; the standard plan starts at $6.75 per hour and $0.40 per mile, which covers gas and insurance. All-day rates start at $65. Once a driver signs up, reservations can be made on-line or over the phone. I-GO also offers business memberships and plans, as well as special rates for non-profits.
The Rogers Park Community Council (RPCC) joined I-GO in 2008. “I-GO is a perfect solution for staffers who don’t own cars,” says RPCC Associate Director Cathie Bazzon. She and co-worker Faye Walker (director of the Housing Action Program) typically use I-GO to transport clients to appointments and to attend professional meetings outside the city.
Roger Park ranks consistently among I-GO’s top five user neighborhoods, which Kosmacher calls “hugely successful.” The area has a good transportation infrastructure, but high density and limited parking—the perfect formula for I-GO.
And in this economy, Kosmacher says there’s more incentive to try I-GO than ever. According to the organization’s research, the I-GO can save its members up to $4,000 per year in transportation costs.
“We’re very aware of our Rogers Park members and their needs and demands,” Kosmacher said. “I think there are many people who have not only have gotten rid of their car, but are back to walking, biking and taking public transportation.”
I-GO has been feeling the economic pinch themselves, having to be more careful with expenses, Kosmacher pointed out. “We’d like to see a stronger economy with stable gas prices.”
I-GO user Gemini Wadley swears by the car sharing program, estimating that it saves him as much as $700 per month. He got rid of his car four years ago.
“I feel like I’m doing some good for me and the world. It’s certainly saves me a butt load of money,” Wadley said. He currently spends about $100 per month on I-GO and loves not having to worry about maintenance, or cleaning, for that matter.
“I mostly to go to the grocery stores in the area, Whole Foods, Jewel, Trader Joe’s, my dry cleaners on 22nd Street, my doctor appointments in Orland Park,” said Wadley, who lives in the Printer’s Row neighborhood. “If I have friends in town, I may use it for us to go to clubs – during the hours of midnight-6 a.m. its only $4 bucks. Just two years ago it was free during those hours, but $4 is cool.”
Roommates Genevieve Joyce and Corrine Mina live in the South Loop and started using I-GO soon after it first came to Chicago in 2002. They have used the cars for day trips outside of the city, grocery shopping, picking up friends late at night, and to move.
“We needn’t worry about costs for overnight parking, insurance or gas because I-GO covers all of that,” Joyce said.
Mina added, “It’s just very convenient if you need a car for a couple of hours, or one day.”
However, one issue Joyce encountered while using I-GO arose out of the use of cameras at stop lights and signs. Joyce said there is no way to protest such tickets with I-GO.
“You are merely supposed to pay the ticket and I-Go will not ask you whether you feel the ticket is justified,” she said.
I-GO’s fleet is comprised of low-emission fuel efficient and ultra fuel efficient hybrid cars, including the Toyota Prius, Honda Civic (standard and hybrid), Honda Fit, and Toyota Matrix, along with a few compact SUVs. They also just introduced plug-in hybrids at their Downtown and South Loop locations. Plans are in the works for additional cars in Rogers Park within a year.
In an effort to create an all-in-one transportation card, I-GO recently partnered with the CTA to offer a combined I-GO and Chicago Card.
“Anyone who cares about the wellbeing of our current environment and its future and anyone who is looking to reduce their stress levels – I-GO is the way!” Wadley said. “Also, anyone [should use I-GO] who is tired of looking for parking and receiving mysterious parking tickets.”
For more information, visit I-GO’s website, www.igocars.org, or call 773-278-4446. Businesses or non-profits interested in I-GO can contact Richard Kosmacher directly at 773-269-4011.
I-GO’s Rogers Park locations include:
- Two cars at Gateway Mall/Dominick’s on Howard Street.
- Two cars at Loyola University, 1215 W. Albion.
- One car at the Citgo on Sheridan and Touhy, 7138 N. Sheridan.
- Two cars at the Greenleaf Art Center, 1806 W. Greenleaf.
- Three cars at 1624 W. Morse
- One car at the Morseland Café, 1218 W. Morse.