Hourly car rental offered downtown

Staff WriterJuly 22, 2010 

Raleigh residents without cars of their own can now temporarily drive one through a car-sharing program launched Wednesday by the city and Enterprise Rent-A-Car.

Raleigh's new initiative is the latest version of Enterprise's WeCar program, which offers round-the-clock car rentals for any short-term driving need. Conceived in 2008 as a program for colleges or corporations, it has spread to 17 states. Raleigh follows Nashville and Enterprise's home base, St. Louis, as the only cities with a public version of the program.

"It is a hassle-free solution to getting around," said Ryan Johnson, Enterprise's vice president of WeCar operations.

WeCar members register through the program's website, www.wecar.com, and receive a membership card. Johnson said drivers reserve a car online and use their card to activate it during the selected period. The keys in the glove box won't work without swiping the card through an in-car computer, Johnson said, preventing unregistered use or thievery.

WeCar Raleigh has two new Honda Civics available immediately: one at Enterprise's office on South McDowell Street and the other at West Condominiums on Harrington Street. Each costs $10 an hour after a $20 application fee and an annual $50 membership fee. These prices cover insurance, gas and mileage, Johnson said.

Mitchell Silver, Raleigh's planning director, said the program's debut marks Raleigh's growth as a city.

"We are beginning to see the critical mass for programs like this," said Silver, estimating the city's population at 400,000. "Raleigh continues to emerge as a major 21st-century city."

WeCar's Raleigh chapter plans to add more cars in tune with demand. Mayor Charles Meeker said shared cars can help reduce emissions and the need for parking. Their availability at all hours, Meeker added, gives residents an additional option when public buses aren't operating.

"WeCar will be the exception, not the rule, for the average downtown person's transit," he said.

Ann-Cabell Baum Andersen, a broker with the WeCar Raleigh sponsor, Glenwood Real Estate Agency, said the program makes Raleigh seem more in line with larger cities in terms of transportation.

"We're not New York City," Baum Andersen said. "We don't have yellow cabs everywhere."

mark.hensch@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8983

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