Nathan Eberly walks less than a mile to work from his Marina Bay condo. He rarely requires a car.
But if he needs to drive on a weekend, he goes online and within two minutes, reserves the same Honda Civic Hybrid to take him to the farmers’ market or down to San Jose on business.
Eberly, 23, is among more than a thousand Richmond residents and businesses that are increasingly using the city’s “Easy Go Richmond” program. The sustainable transportation initiative, which began in January, provides low-cost car and bike sharing services to the city’s residents in hopes of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the number of vehicles on the road.
A typical weekend rental costs Eberly $60-100 for his shared hybrid.
“It’s very good if you’re on a budget and you’re trying to invest your money in yourself,” Eberly said.
TransMETRO, a Bay Area transportation consulting firm, runs the Easy Go project as part of a $1.8 million deal with the city. In July, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission awarded Easy Go $343,000 in federal grant money to expand its car-sharing program and shuttle service for Richmond children to more neighborhoods.
Combine that with other funding sources and Easy Go can keep running for several years, said Fred Khan, TransMETRO’s vice president of operations.
After about six months, Easy Go’s shared cars are being rented 18 percent of the time at around $3 per hour, depending on the car, Khan said. The program will break even when its 10 cars are rented at 60 percent of the time, which Khan said he hopes will happen by the end of the year.
Easy Go also operates a Kid’s Cab, which shuttles children to and from Richmond schools and after-school activities at about $1 per trip. The service is oversubscribed, Khan said.
Residents continue to catch on to Easy Go as word of mouth spreads around the community, city Project Manager Lori Reese-Brown said.
The rental cars — hybrid Civics, electric cars and a minivan — are housed in three places around the city: Richmond Village Apartments, Liberty Village Apartments and the Hilltop Mall. Reese-Brown said many businesses have asked the city to park Easy Go’s shared cars and build Easy Go bike racks near them. The city also wants to dock shared bicycles at the Richmond BART station and add car-share centers near large employment centers like Chevron, City Hall and the social services building.
Organizers also would like to increase Easy Go’s presence in North Richmond, which has been challenging to reach, Reese-Brown said.
With more expansion down the road, Easy Go continues to pick up passengers like Nathan Eberly, who began using the service this summer.
“The beauty of it is it’s pretty spontaneous,” Eberly said. “The fact that I don’t have to pay a monthly fee for a car just gives me tremendous freedom.”