In the past decade, car sharing has become a trendy alternative for carless city-dwellers in America. However, European countries have been taking advantage of car sharing for over 50 years. One program began in Switzerland in 1948 to provide cars for apartment renters that could not afford their own vehicles, and another enterprise started in Europe in the 1970s as a reaction to the oil crisis. 
So why is America just now catching on? The main reason is that Americans are driving more now than ever before. Almost every family has multiple vehicles – one for mom, one for dad, and one for each of the kids. This leads to jammed roadways and packed parking garages and lots. As a result, parking costs have skyrocketed in cities where personal parking is not readily accessible. For example, in Austin’s West Campus neighborhood, a parking spot at an apartment often costs up to $1200 per year. Essentially, kids are paying $1200 a year to not use their cars, and hundreds more on gas and insurance and maintenance for when they are using them.
Car sharing is a feasible, economic, and cheap solution to the transportation problems in cities. It can be either low-tech, or high-tech. The low-tech option allows individuals to subscribe to a service, such as RelayRides  or Getaround , through which they can rent out their personal car and are provided insurance and billing assistance. Members of the service, which go through a background check, can then pick up and drive the car, which are often conveniently located in neighborhoods instead of retail and business districts. However, the owners are at a disadvantage because they are responsible for the upkeep of their vehicle.
The high-tech option is more popular and visible to consumers because companies, like Zipcar and Car2Go, maintain their own branded fleet of vehicles. The companies provide driver insurance, monthly billing services, and vehicle maintenance. These companies also make accessing the car convenient, since they pay to have designated parking spots located in college campuses and on busy city streets.
The most complicated problem with car sharing is insurance. Because car sharing has evolved so quickly, policy is having a hard time keeping up. West coast states California, Oregon, and Washington recently passed laws to protect personal vehicle owners while still allowing renters to be covered.  Other cities and states in which car sharing is a feasible solution for transit crowding must be willing to take regulatory action to minimize the risk of expensive insurance claims and court cases brought on by accidents and damage.
Despite the insurance policy issue, car sharing is a great solution for many cities’ transportation problems – if their citizens are willing to forego the luxury and status symbol that comes with owning your own car. Increased car sharing would mean fewer cars on the road and therefore faster transportation, less gas consumption, and decreased emissions. Additionally, members would be spending much less money on car maintenance, fuel, and insurance. A win-win for the environment and consumers.
1 Garthwaite, Josie. “Car Sharing Widens the Lanes of Access for City Drivers.” National Geographic Society, 26 Nov. 2012. Web. 26 Mar. 2013. <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2012/11/121126-peer-to-peer-car-sharing/>.
2“How It Works.” Relay Rides. Web. 26 Mar. 2013. <https://relayrides.com/>.
3“Getaround Support.” Getaround. Web. 26 Mar. 2013. <http://support.getaround.com/>.
4“Zipcar Car Sharing Replaces Car Rental & Ownership.” Zipcar. Web. 26 Mar. 2013. <http://www.zipcar.com/>.
5“Austin.” Car2Go. Web. 26 Mar. 2013. <https://www.car2go.com/en/austin/>.