Months after a local car-sharing program suspended service due to an insurance problem, the low-cost membership-based hourly rental service is returning under new ownership.
Officials with Buffalo CarShare have announced a tentative agreement with the for-profit entity Zipcar for the latter to acquire local operations. Talks are ongoing with some of Buffalo CarShare's partners, but the company's executive director, Mike Galligano, told WBFO service under Zipcar could resume as early as October.
"We're working out some details along that space to also provide free membership for all Buffalo CarShare current and past members, so it gives them a little bit of a perk to come back to the system," said Galligano.
Buffalo CarShare began operations in June 2009. This past May, the company lost its insurance policy. They turned to Albany and sought legislation that they saw as a lifeline. That legislation failed to pass and Buffalo CarShare ceased operations in June. Acquisition by a for-profit service was among the options Galligano and other staff kept on the table. Discussions with Zipcar began about two months ago.
Zipcar, according to its website, serves more than 50 cities across North America and has a presence on more than 150 college campuses.
While in business, the not-for-profit Buffalo CarShare gained financial support from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, or NYSERDA. Zipcar's entry into the Buffalo market not only restores service to local members but could be the starting point for this alternative transportation model in other cities across New York, Galligano said.
"NYSERDA has committed funding to look into underserved communities across the state," he said. "This partnership will bring Zipcar into discussions to bring car sharing into new cities, new communities such as Syracuse, Rochester, Binghamton, Utica."