I-GO offers alternate transportation

Grace Johnson and Grace Johnson

A Chicago non-profit organization aims to make car sharing a regular part of the city’s public transportation system.

When the Center for Neighborhood Technology first started I-GO car sharing as a pilot program in 2002, it was the first of its kind in Chicago. Under the program, members can sign up to use an I-GO car for as little as $6.75 per hour.

With help from the city of Chicago, the program began as a way to see if car sharing was a viable idea in the metropolitan area, said Richard Kosmacher, I-GO’s business development manager.

Seven years later, I-GO is a much bigger program and has doubled in size nearly every year since its creation, Kosmacher said. Despite I-GO’s growth, the program remains a non-profit organization.

“We are mission-driven,” he said. “Our mission is not to provide returns, but to make car sharing available in an affordable, easy, convenient way.”

I-GO’s success was at its highest in the summer of 2008, when gas prices surged. While member numbers have since leveled off as the economic recession drove gas prices back down, the program aims to become a part of Chicago’s public transportation system in the future, Kosmacher said.

“After walking, biking and public transportation, we like to think of ourselves as a fourth option,” he said. “We consider ourselves an enhancement to that lifestyle – every now and then people who don’t own a car need one.”

I-GO offers both economic and environmental advantages with a 200-vehicle fleet where half of the cars are hybrids and all are low-emission, Kosmacher said. The program also aims to reduce car ownership rates and family transportation costs.

Elisa Redish, a co-chair of Students for Ecological and Environmental Development, said she agrees with I-GO’s eventual goal of integrating itself into the public transportation system.

“It’s obviously the ideal endpoint of transportation,” the Communication junior said. “In the short term, while technology is still in the works and fuel-efficient cars are still more expensive, car sharing is a great alternative.”

With two cars available on Northwestern’s campus and another dozen available in Evanston itself, I-GO is accessible to NU students, Kosmacher said.

“I would use I-GO because I don’t have a car on campus and it would be a great substitute,” said Michael Abers, a Weinberg senior who had heard of I-GO in the past.

While drivers must be 21 years old to join, NU students who are at least 18 years old can sign up through the University.

I-GO, whose fee includes insurance, gives people the opportunity to make a lifestyle change.

“We want to encourage people who don’t need to have a car to get rid of their car and save a bunch of money,” Kosmacher said.

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